Andrew Wiggins Finally Earns Marcus Smart's Respect at 2014 Big 12 Tournament

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Andrew Wiggins Finally Earns Marcus Smart's Respect at 2014 Big 12 Tournament
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Kansas City, Mo. — Was that good enough?

Andrew Wiggins, on stage Thursday at the Sprint Center, dropping 30 points in a 77-70 payback win in overtime over Oklahoma State and his biggest preseason critic, Marcus Smart.

Five months ago, Smart said Wiggins needed to prove himself. Smart was tired of hearing about the hype.

All YouTube and no bite.

He wanted to see before he believed.

Well, now he has seen. So?

"Like I said, you've got to earn my respect," Smart said. "You've got to go and take it, and he earned it tonight."

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Smart's point was probably a bit overblown back then. And he had a point. Wiggins had not proved himself on the college stage. We needed to wait and see.

And when he didn't exactly assert himself in November, we should have waited to see.

November, even for one-and-done talents, should be about developing. March is when legacies are made.

It's still too early to judge Wiggins with the Big 12 tournament only a game deep and the NCAA tournament yet to come.

But it has become apparent that for the Jayhawks to go on a run, especially without Joel Embiid, they need Wiggins to play like an All-American this month if they want to make it into April. 

So far, so good.

Last Saturday, he nearly brought Kansas back from the dead with 41 points against West Virginia. On Thursday from the opening tip, he made sure his Jayhawks didn't get in that spot again.

Not only did Wiggins make shots, he took on the task of guarding KU killer Markel Brown. In Brown's previous four games against KU, he had made 17-of-29 threes—he's a 34.7 percent three-point shooter for his career—and averaged 21 points.

Wiggins didn't give Brown a good look all day. He scored 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting with just one three. That one, coming off a down-screen with his back to the basket and fading away, was "a joke how good that was," Bill Self said.

Turns out, a defense without Embiid can still be pretty good when Wiggins defends like that and his teammates follow suit. The Jayhawks held the Cowboys to just one basket in overtime. 

That's not what we will remember, however. 

We'll remember the made-for-YouTube-moment, Wiggins climbing the ladder for a alley-oop dunk late in regulation. 

We'll remember his baseline jumper that ended up sending the game to overtime with just over a minute left. 

And we'll remember Smart, finally giving the kid his due. 

"He led his team to a Big 12 championship and came here as a freshman and did what he was supposed to do," Smart said. "He didn't get the Player of the Year, but he still is one of the biggest attributes in the Big 12. He's one of the best players in the Big 12. I'll give him credit. He earned my respect tonight." 

 

C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR. 

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