The Double-Edged Sword with All the Andrew Wiggins Hype

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 10th, 2013

Everywhere I turned on Tuesday, I couldn’t help but notice it. On the internet, throughout the Twitterverse, in a story on the cover of the local USA Today at the gas station. Andrew Wiggins, next to Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. As if the hype wasn’t already out of hand, setting a present-day Wiggins next to a classic photo of Wilt in his Kansas days doesn’t exactly temper any of these expectations.  Instead, it magnifies them. With all the mention of Andrew Wiggins also comes exposure for Kansas. Sure Bill Self has lured top talent to Kansas before, but time after time the past few years, Self has been on the losing end of an elite talent recruiting battle to Kentucky’s John Calipari. Another top prospect, headed to Lexington instead of Lawrence. Don’t get me wrong, Self still brought in exceptional talent, just not consistently the cream of the crop.

But Andrew Wiggins was different.

SI's Wiggins/WIlt Comparisons are Fueling the Fire (credit: Sports Illustrated)

SI’s Wiggins/WIlt Comparisons are Fueling the Fire (credit: Sports Illustrated)

A year ago, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the top prospect in the last several years would head to the program churning out lottery picks at a record-setting pace. Wiggins is a fan of the famous rapper, Drake, and Drake is a fan of Wiggins. Both are fellow Canadians. Drake is also a familiar face in Kentucky basketball, so it all seemed to make sense. Except it didn’t happen that way. Wiggins broke the mold, committing to Kansas last spring in a small non-televised event.

Within the last few weeks, it was rumored that Kelly Oubre’s recruitment had come down to Kansas and Kentucky — the first real recruiting battle between Self and Calipari since the Wiggins commitment. Oubre attended KU’s Late Night in the Phog last Friday, and this Tuesday, he cancelled an upcoming visit to Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness to commit to Kansas. Another win for Self against Calipari and perhaps a small turn in momentum along the recruiting front in college basketball. In an interview with KUsports.com, Oubre talked about going to Kansas to replace Wiggins after this season. Make no mistake about it, Wiggins’ footprint at Kansas has already made an impact on the way top shelf talent views Kansas. And it doesn’t stop with Oubre.  Kansas is in the mix for the ultimate package deal in Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, and are rumored to be one of the leaders for top ten prospects Cliff Alexander and Miles Turner as well.

Wiggins was selected as CBS Sports‘ Preseason Player of the Year. Now, he shares a Sports Illustrated cover with two of the best players in Kansas basketball history. The hype around his upcoming season in college basketball has hit a level where it feels almost impossible that he will fulfill expectations. Just yesterday, well-respected college basketball writer Jeff Goodman, after watching a Kansas practice, tweeted, “Andrew Wiggins has so much natural ability, but is struggling consistently with intensity. Was probably the 5th or 6th-best on floor today.”  Kansas has plenty of talent, but for a kid who has been considered one of the best prospects in the last decade of basketball, fifth or sixth best on his own team would be considered a disappointment.

Sure, maybe I’m putting far too much stock into a practice in early October. But here’s where I caution KU fans who are soaking up the limelight. What if Wiggins is just a really good basketball player in his only season in Lawrence, instead of a once in a generation talent like many have made him out to be? If this happens, how will Bill Self then be viewed by recruits? Will others point to Josh Selby and Xavier Henry to infer that Wiggins is yet another top prospect that struggled at Kansas? When the next top recruit is choosing between a few remaining schools, competing coaches will jump all over the opportunity to suggest that he avoid going to Lawrence, explaining how Wiggins was the biggest “can’t-miss” recruit in the last decade, yet he failed to deliver Kevin Durant-like numbers at Kansas.

This is all because up to this point, everyone has universally decided to hold Wiggins to a standard that most of us know is incredibly unfair. Maybe it’s because we love seeing greatness. Maybe because we enjoyed Durant, and Michael Beasley, and Derrick Rose, and Anthony Davis, and we desperately want the next edition. Maybe because we’re incredibly impatient, and we can’t wait to crown “the next big thing” even before it has accomplished anything. Sure, the anticipation is awesome.  But maybe we should pump the brakes a little bit and let Andrew Wiggins actually take the court this fall before we crown him the best player in college basketball.

Taylor Erickson (54 Posts)

Taylor Erickson is a Big 12 contributor for RTC. You can follow him on Twitter @tc_erickson.


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