Andrew Wiggins Mania Has Begun at Kansas
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
LAWRENCE, KAN. — Andrew Wiggins stood next to Kansas Jayhawks teammate Andrew White III on Friday night as he waited to go in front of 16,300 at Allen Fieldhouse for the first time, and the sure-thing superstar was sweating bullets.
"He was telling me he wasn't ready and all that," White said. "He personally told me, 'You can't really simulate that many people looking at you at one time.'"
At Kansas, they come no matter who wears the jersey. But the excitement for Wiggins has sent this basketball-crazed state to new levels of insanity with Friday's "Late Night in the Phog" as the first preview.
The line kept growing on KU's famed Naismith Drive throughout the day. An hour after the doors opened to the public, the place was full. KU officials said approximately 3,000-5,000 were turned away.
Bill Self told those who made it in to be patient with this young team. In the next breath, he was pointing to the rafters at KU's national championship banners, saying it was time to hang another one up there.
Welcome to Wiggins Mania.
It's hard for Kansas fans, and even Self, not to dream.
Self felt a pinch a few hours later when he watched his team play a lazy 20-minute scrimmage and was compelled to explain.
"I thought we ran dummy offense good, considering there was no defense out there," Self said of a 66-40 win for Wiggins' blue team.
"That was brother-in-law ball," Self would say later.
Yes, there's work to be done. But the people got what they wanted. Wiggins mostly went through the motions, but he still managed to rack up 12 points.
Self said last week during KU's media day that Wiggins has to learn how to play every possession, and that was apparent if you want to take anything away from a glorified pickup game.
In the select moments Wiggins decided to try, you could see it. He drove baseline and spun into the middle for a lefty layup. He went around a screen, took three long steps and hammered home a one-handed dunk.
Self has tried his best to temper expectations for Wiggins and has said things like sophomore Perry Ellis could lead KU in scoring. Ellis, coincidentally, was the high scorer on Friday night with 14 points. But all eyes are on Wiggins because of what we've been told he could be.
"He could be our best defender," Self said of Wiggins last week at KU's media day. "He could be our best shot-blocker. He could be our best lane-runner. He could be our best offensive rebounder. He could be a lot of things."
To get that out of Wiggins, Self will need to find a way to motivate him beyond living up to the expectations others have created.
This week, Wiggins became the first player ever in the Big 12—remember Kevin Durant played in this league—to make the preseason all-conference team. He's already made multiple preseason All-American teams. Unless he bombs big time, he'll live at the top of every mock draft.
Luckily for Wiggins, as hard as it may be for anyone else to get noticed, you can see Self has put together a roster oozing with potential.
Wiggins should be able to have off nights shooting the ball, but his team can still win. He can still look good if he embraces becoming a great defender, which will allow the Jayhawks to get out and run where he can do what he does best: finish.
Wiggins did steal one pass in the 20-minute scrimmage, and no matter how hard fellow freshman Conner Frankamp tried to get in front of him, Wiggins shielded him off effortlessly on his way to a dunk.
It's in those moments, when he has the ball and open court in front of him, that he can forget about all the pressure and let his gifts go to work.
But as he found out on Friday night, it's hard to ignore all the hoopla.
Wiggins had to wait for over an hour after the festivities were over for the crowds to disperse so he could leave the Fieldhouse without getting mobbed. Before he left, he took one last look out the tunnel at the court where he'll likely spend one year.
He had stopped sweating.
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