Andrew Wiggins' Impressive First Workout a Sign of Big Things at Kansas
Never let it be said that Andrew Wiggins does not know how to make a proper arrival.
The nation's consensus top recruit and arguably the best prep basketball player since LeBron James made his first appearance on a Lawrence court since signing with Kansas on Monday. According to CBS Sports' Gary Parrish, the reports coming out of that workout were absolutely glowing.
"Wow!" a source said of Wiggins' performance. "Like watching a video game. He'd be the No. 1 pick this year."
Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv also got similar reports from a source:
Kansas source on @22wiggins' 1st practice Monday: 'Best athlete that we have ever been around.'— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) June 18, 2013
Wiggins arrived at Kansas on Saturday, joining the remainder of the Jayhawks' brilliant six-man wrecking crew of a recruiting class. The 18-year-old wingman is the leader of a group that counts shooting guard Wayne Selden and center Joel Embiid as fellow elite names heading to Lawrence.
Bill Self's club is replacing its entire starting lineup this season, with Kansas' 2013-14 bunch likely boasting a Kentucky-like youth movement.
Wiggins is obviously at the center of this rebuild. Considered the No. 1 recruit in the nation by every major publication known to man, the Canadian native surprised some people with his decision to attend Kansas. He also considered Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina, with the former two being the supposed leaders in the pack for much of the chase.
But since making his intentions known, Wiggins has put his best foot forward in ingratiating himself with the Jayhawks fanbase. He was able to arrive with the remainder of his teammates this weekend because he chose coming to Lawrence over participating with Team Canada's U19 team for next month's World Championships in Prague.
While that's not an uncommon sacrifice—most top prospects from the United States, including Jabari Parker, did not try out for the national team—Self was quick to praise his new star's decision, according to Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star.
“I think it speaks volumes that he’s trying to get here as soon as he possibly can,” Self said.
The question remains: What does this all mean? What does Wiggins coming to Lawrence, impressing in a practice and forgoing his Team Canada efforts to do so mean in the long-term?
Absolutely nothing in a concrete sense. This was one practice. Having any reaction whatsoever to its result would be the latest in the overreaction theatre that will be the Andrew Wiggins Watch of 2013-14.
Every move this kid makes will be dissected. Every shot, every pass, every everything. Nothing—not even going to the movies or reading Shakespeare—will be sacred in covering this kid.
And while we can go all moralistic in this space and decry the whole process as corrupt—which we all should know it is by now—Wiggins has gotten used to the attention. This is the deal that all notable athletes sign up for in this culture, even ones who are just barely old enough to buy tobacco products. Unless the Internet and all media platforms crawl in a hole and die, the overdone obsession with Wiggins' legacy won't stop until he becomes an NBA superstar or disappoints.
In a strange way, that's why Wiggins being impressive at his first workouts—and jarringly so, at that—is actually important from a superficial sense.
There is always this overwhelming feeling in culture that first impressions are the most important. And that's especially the case for someone who is under such a microscope. We'll probably all brush these initial reports to the side within the next 12-24 hours because Wiggins is supposed to look good and this is one practice. There will probably be plenty of commenters on this site and others frustrated at the over-coverage and overreaction to an isolated incident.
And that's fine. But imagine the polar opposite scenario. Imagine a place where Wiggins comes into Lawrence looking a little overweight. Or where he comes equipped with an entourage so large that Vincent Chase would think it's excessive. Or any number of these weird scenarios you often see young stars fall into.
Now let's be clear in stating we pretty much knew none of that would happen. By all accounts, Wiggins is one of the more gracious and understated young stars of his kind in recent memory. He comes from a home that boasts a former NBA player (Mitchell Wiggins) and a former Olympic track and field silver medalist (Marita Payne-Wiggins). This kid is nothing if not fully prepared for everything the limelight provides.
That being said, it's just good to see a young man like this in action. For those who bleed Kansas colors, it has to be comforting to hear that Wiggins is not some overhyped media creation like so many former prep stars.
How will Andrew Wiggins fare at Kansas?
As someone who has watched hours of film on Wiggins, I can tell you that he's my favorite prep prospect since watching Kevin Durant play at Texas when I was still in high school. But to hear it from people inside the Kansas organization—that Wiggins is the best athlete they've ever been around when countless other stars have walked through Lawrence—that's certainly a good start for the youngster.
Of course, it will be nothing compared to seeing Wiggins throw down at this year's "Late Night in the Phog" on Oct. 4 or actually, you know, play in a real basketball game. But over these next four months, little steps like impressing during workouts and coming to Lawrence to get an early start with teammates will have to keep the coals burning on the Wiggins hype.
Will he ultimately translate that to on-the-court excellence? Who knows. But it's painfully obvious this kid is doing everything he can to make sure he does.
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