Wiggins: Top recruit, interesting character

Wiggins: Top recruit, interesting character
May 14, 2013, 1:15 pm
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The most anticipated college basketball decision of the year was not televised. It was not even streamed online. It was not made in front of a room full of national reporters and it featured none of the tricks and suspense and commercial breaks that we’ve become accustomed to at such announcements in recent years.

Andrew Wiggins, the nation’s best high school basketball player, announced inside the gymnasium at St. Joseph Central Catholic High School in Huntington, W.V. Wednesday that he intended to play his college ball at the University of Kansas.

That news trickled out to the world via the Twitter account of the Herald-Dispatch’s Grant Traylor, the lone print reporter allowed in the room at the time, where it promptly spread like wildfire to the rest of the eager college basketball world.

But in the time of over-simplified and often contrived storylines in the sports world--LeBron as “The Villian,” Howard as “The Disruptive Force,” Durant as “The Second-Place Finisher”-- those looking for a storyline on Wiggins may find something different.

The incredible athletic abilities and world of potential that Wiggins possesses, as the son of a former NBA player and a one-time track star, do not match the way in which he chose to carry out his recruitment.

On the summer amateur circuit, media exposure and interview sessions were limited. That’s not because he was “entitled” or “protected” or any of the other popular and often unfair buzzwords that are associated with basketball recruiting, but instead because he appeared--get this-- strikingly human.

It was a reminder that the 6-foot-8 teenager who almost literally looks down into the rim when he dunks a basketball, the one who had become an Internet sensation and the coveted crown jewel of any high-major recruiting class was above all one key thing--a mortal teenager.

He took time off from basketball at the end of the summer because of simple fatigue. He cancelled a series of in-home visits late in his recruitment for the same reason.

His teammates, among them recruits headed to Syracuse and Florida State as integral parts of their own respective recruiting classes, spoke glowingly of him. They called him a great teammate and a friend off the court.

"He's a tremendous talent and a terrific kid. Probably an even better kid than he is a talent," Kansas coach Bill Self said in a statement. "We think he has a chance to be about as good a prospect as we've ever had."

And yet with all of those less-than-incredible facts about his public image, Wiggins will likely within a year be preparing to go No. 1 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft and sign endorsements deals worth tens of millions of dollars.

The approach isn’t necessarily “refreshing” or “the right way,” as it has been described elsewhere. Wiggins would have fully been within his right to conduct his recruitment publicly and to announce in front of a row of national TV cameras.

But he didn’t, which simply makes him different and certainly intriguing and the decision becomes a story within itself, considering his immense talent.

So off goes Wiggins to Kansas, almost fittingly, despite its perceived improbability in the days leading up to his decision. Off he goes close to where his brother, Nick, plays basketball at Wichita State. Off he goes to one of the nation’s most storied college basketball programs to take the torch from departing guard Ben McLemore, who himself is headed to the NBA.

And now begins the next chapter in what we expect to be a long book on Wiggins’ basketball career. But, that said, if the way this author wrote the previous chapter is any indication, don’t expect any plot twists any time soon.