Keeler: KU star Wiggins lets his game do all the talking
SEP 25, 2013 8:43p ET
Andrew Wiggins, who turns 19 next February, is an athlete of the Twitter generation, for the Twitter generation. One-hundred and forty characters, baby. Rarely more. Often less.
Ergo, many of the exchanges between Kansas' freshman superstar and wave after wave of camera jockeys during the Jayhawks' Media Day at Allen Fieldhouse went a lot like this:
Reporter: What are expectations for this team? What's the ceiling?
Wiggins: Be the best, hopefully. That's the main goal for all of us, I know, is to win the national championship.
Reporter: Coach Self says you're an alpha dog. Are you comfortable with being an alpha dog?
Wiggins: Yeah, I'm comfortable. I think I could.
Reporter: You have any surprises planned for Late Night In The Phog next Friday?
Wiggins: No. I don't know. (Smiles slightly)
Et cetera, et cetera. Now don't get the wrong idea here: The exchanges were pleasant, at least as far as reporter-future gazillionaire exchanges go. Plus, the dude was fighting a cold. Being asked the same question every five minutes or so while you're sick will tax anyone's sanity -- even an 18-year-old who happens to be wise beyond his years.
And, besides, it's not just us.
"I'd heard he was a quiet kid," sophomore guard Andrew White III said of the nation's No. 1 high school recruit. "I heard he wasn't too cocky. And when he got here, he didn't say a whole lot. Very quiet. And that's going to take him a long way.
"He has the (credentials) to be what some would consider a jerk. But he came in, he was a quiet kid, very respectful. He listens. Listens to me. And so I think that's really going to help him along the way. Just because that whole status that he has hasn't gotten to his head at all."
A jerk, he isn't. A sweet enigma, he is. The 6-foot-8 wing from Canada is the most ballyhooed true freshman to suit up for the home side at The Phog since Larry Brown brought Danny Manning into the fold a generation ago. Wiggins carries the kind of tools that already drive NBA scouts bonkers: a 44-inch vertical leap, a 7-foot wingspan, a skeleton made of pure adamantium and a set of giant unbreakable claws that pop out of his knuckles on command.
OK, so we made those last two up. But the world has been told that watching Wiggins is like watching what LeBron James would have looked like if he were tearing up the Big 12 as a teenager -- which is either a fantastic compliment or a potentially crushing set of expectations, depending on your perspective.
As bars go, the one set for the 2013 Naismith High School Player of the Year, rightly or wrongly, starts somewhere between the stratosphere and the moon. Take it or leave it.
"He's very talented and has a ton of potential, but he's just a freshman," coach Bill Self noted. "He's going to find his way, like everyone else.
"The expectations that have been put on him by outside factors or media members comparing him to this person or that person are really not fair at all. He has a chance to become a great player. I would not say he's a great player yet, but a great prospect. And hopefully, he will develop in a way where he can become a great player quickly."
Hopefully. Wiggins may walk on air, kids, but he doesn't walk on water.
"There's pressure," the teen said, matter-of-factly. "But for me, it's just, like, motivation pressure. People are always giving me big shoes to fill, and I'm just trying my best to fill them.
"I think I'll be good. I have great parents; they taught me a lot. They kept me level-headed all this time. I'm a big believer in God. So I think nothing will get to me too much, where I can't handle it."
Nothing? Not Ames? Not Manhattan? Not Stillwater?
"I don't really care what a lot of other people say," said Wiggins, whose Jayhawks lift the lid with an exhibition on Oct. 29 and open the regular season versus Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 8. "It doesn't really faze me like that. The best way to just avoid that is to just keep playing good."
Because nothing silences thousands of haters quite like stone-cold, jaw-dropping excellence. White's favorite holy-expletive Wiggins moment to date hails from early in the summer, during a scrappy live scrimmage, around the time the young Canuck's dunk over Cole Aldrich got plastered all over the interwebs.
"He drove to the basket and went up for a layup and missed," Wiggins' teammate recounted.
"And his second jump was higher than his first jump. And I've never seen somebody miss a layup and get a rebound and jump up so quick -- that's when I knew he had that next level of athleticism.
"That's something I had never seen, (and) I had seen pro guys. And a lot of people wouldn't notice it, but when he went in there and missed that shot and the quickness that he came off the ground with ... he's going to catch a lot of people this year with that second jump."
And with that, White grinned broadly. Knowingly. The game defies words, logic and gravity. But mostly gravity.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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