Reflecting on the Andrew Wiggins Era at KansasPosted by Brian Goodman on March 31st, 2014
There was never a shred of doubt that this would be Andrew Wiggins‘ only season at Kansas, but with his time in Lawrence officially coming to a close at today’s news conference, we can now safely look back at the mark he left in Lawrence over the last five months. To start off, it’s necessary to frame Wiggins’ season in the context of proper expectations coming into the season. Wiggins was never going to be a Durant-like scoring superstar that many thought he could be when he committed to the Jayhawks last May. Bill Self’s philosophy of sharing the ball and using a balanced offensive attack doesn’t allow a single player to contribute eye-popping stats, no matter how good he might be. There’s a reasonable discussion to be had over whether Self should have done more to take advantage of a unique individual asset like that of Wiggins, but that’s a separate conversation. As much fun as it would have been to see Wiggins running repeated isolations and pick-and-rolls, anyone who has followed Kansas during the Self era knows that that’s just not how the head coach does things. He wasn’t going to make significant changes to a system that has led him to 10 consecutive Big 12 titles, a national championship, and future Hall of Fame status.
What we did see, though, was a very successful season for a freshman in a program that has had mixed results with one-and-done talents. Wiggins was the leading scorer at 17.1 points per game for a team that won its conference (again) and he gave us quite a few eye-popping reasons why scouts have been drooling over his potential for years. Like most freshmen, he needed some time to get used to his role within the offense, ultimately settling in despite some unfair criticism as the young team navigated a brutal non-conference schedule. Once he became more comfortable, he became a more consistent player, one that allowed him to make the all-Big 12 first team at season’s end. Whether he was finishing lobs in traffic, coming from out of nowhere to get an offensive rebound and putback, willing his team back from impossible deficits, or putting the brakes on the opposition’s top scorer as Kansas’ best defender, he did nothing to dissuade us from the idea that he is a top-tier talent with a legitimate chance to become the top overall NBA Draft pick in June. That Wiggins was able to accomplish so much for a team that was highly unstable at the point guard position only raises the impression he left with us over the course of a single collegiate season.
While we’re comfortable with that assertion, there were also more than a few moments this year that made us scratch our heads about Wiggins’ assertiveness. He was a no-show in Kansas’ home game against Oklahoma State on January 18, which was the team’s biggest match-up to that point in the year, and he went ice cold (2-of-12) in a subsequent loss to Texas. His four-point, four-rebound season finale performance against Stanford left a poor taste in everybody’s mouths, as he hit just one shot from the floor due to a combination of reasons attributable to both he and his teammates. But ultimately, it’s unfortunate that a team with Wiggins couldn’t get any further than the round of 32. When he committed to the program last May, expectations went from a solid reloading year to the possibility of a Final Four run. On Selection Sunday, those expectations were complicated by Joel Embiid’s back injury, but it wasn’t unreasonable to expect Kansas, behind Wiggins’ talent, to still make it to the second weekend and roll the dice with Embiid from there. From that perspective, the season was a disappointment, but it shouldn’t take away from a fantastic individual season from the one-and-done phenom.