This Friday, the Kansas Jayhawks will hold their annual “Late Night at the Phog”, the unofficial start of the men’s bastketball season. The local and national spotlight will be focused primarily on one young man – Andrew Wiggins.
Last week, Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com named Wiggins the Preseason Player of the Year. Before his team takes the court for a 20 minutes public scrimmage, in front of 16,300 screaming fans on Friday, before he even has even played a second of collegiate ball, before the ink is dry on his high school diploma, Andrew Wiggins is being ordained as the best collegiate player in the game.
Preseason awards, polls, and rankings are basically worthless. They give people like me something to write about. They are based strictly on expectations and potential, maybe two of the most dangerous words to a young player. Parrish recognizes and addresses this aspect of his business very well in his article. He obviously understands that it is his job to make these sort of predictions.
Wiggins was one of the most hotly sought after prep players in many years. He chose Kansas over Kentucky, North Carolina, and Florida state, and joins a terrific freshman class in Lawrence. He joins a school where expectations are always high, and the national spotlight will probably be bright in Lawrence, Kansas all season. Thus is the life of the most ballyhooed player to come to Kansas since Danny Manning nearly 30 years ago.
The world is much smaller than it was for Danny Manning in the 1980′s. There wasn’t instantaneous highlights, most games were not available nationally, and there were no cell phones, tablets, or laptops. There was no twitter, facebook, or Youtube. Players played, and if they did something spectacular, and somebody noticed, maybe they got a mention on ESPN’s Sportscenter.
Now, if you do something spectacular, or if you do something boneheaded, everyone will see it. If it is awesome or terrible, it will still be on Sportscenter, or if it is not, someone will have videoed it with the cell phone, and posted it somewhere on the internet for all to see. Kids today are so much more exposed to the public eye.
That is the world Andrew Wiggins grew up in. It probably doesn’t even seem unusual to him. He has dealt with the expectations for quite some time. According to Parrish in his article, Wiggins seems prepared to deal with what ever comes his way as far as expectations and exposure, which is a good thing. Still, he just 18-years old.
It will be interesting to see how Self incorporates Wiggins into the head coach’s style of team-first basketball. Wiggins may be the star but he will be surrounded with some fine talent. This is no Danny and the Miracles. It is doubtful Wiggins will average more than 20 points or so a game. Again, according to Parrish’s excellent piece, Wiggins is all right with that notion, to his credit.
Self has never had a star quite like Wiggins. It will be interesting to watch if Self has to coax Wiggins into aggressiveness as he has had to do with some of his better players in the past. Kansas preaches team, team, team and sometimes the stars are hesitant to shine in this system.
Wiggins won’t have to carry a full load on this team. Fellow freshmen Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid are stating to gain attention as possible future top 20 NBA draft picks. Other talented freshmen joining the Jayhawks include Conner Frankamp, Brannen Greene, and Frank Mason. Tarik Black, a senior transfer from Memphis, should add much needed experience to the ranks of the returning players including Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe, Jamari Traylor, Andrew White III, and red shirt freshman Landen Lucas.
That is a lot pieces. How will Wiggins fit in with 11 other talented players? How will Self work his rotation to get everyone enough playing time? Will Wiggins’ natural talent and athleticism fit in with Self’s system enough for him to be the actual national Player of the Year when the season is over?
These are all questions to be answered during the course of the season. Wiggins appears to be ready to lead the Jayhawks to yet another successful season. Jayhawk fans are eager to get their first glimpse of him Friday at Late Night. It should be an exciting team, to watch and it should be fun to watch a player as talented as Andrew Wiggins.
Rock Chalk Jayhawk!