Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Although the Kansas Jayhawks lost all five
starters from their impressive 2012-13 squad, they seem to be the heavy
favorite to collect a 10th consecutive Big 12 Conference championship next
season after Tuesday's signing of prep phenom Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins had narrowed his list of possible college destinations to Kansas,
Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida State over the course of a lengthy
recruiting process before delivering news that he is headed to Lawrence. The
18-year-old Canadian forward will be the featured piece for the Jayhawks, who
have been instantly thrust into the national title contender discussion.
Coach Bill Self's second national championship was within his reach this past
season. Kansas earned one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament and
surpassed the 30-win mark for the fourth consecutive season.
The Jayhawks had a strong inside-outside game with senior Jeff Withey's
sensational defensive ability pairing nicely with the high-scoring and
explosive nature of freshman guard Ben McLemore. After Kansas had its season
end with a heartbreaking overtime loss to Michigan in the Sweet 16, it appeared
the program would have trouble continuing its dominance of the Big 12.
Kansas seemed to be a long shot to land Wiggins as his recruitment process
neared its end. He played his hand very closely, which consistently kept fans
guessing. The fact that both of his parents went to Florida State had many
thinking he would be sporting a Seminoles jersey.
Wiggins would have given Kentucky the best recruiting class in the history of
college basketball had he chosen to play for John Calipari in Lexington. The
prospect of Wiggins next to North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo in Carolina
blue had Chapel Hill tuned in on Tuesday as well.
It does not take long to figure out why Wiggins is considered the best high
school prospect since LeBron James graduated from St. Vincent-St. Mary High
School in Ohio in 2003.
"We think he's as good a prospect as we've ever had," Self said. "We're excited
about it. He brings some athleticism, length, scoring ability and he's also an
assassin, an alpha dog and you definitely need that when you have a whole bunch
of young kids. I think he's going to be not a good player, but has a chance to
be a great one."
Wiggins comes from an excellent pedigree, being the son of former NBA player
Mitchell Wiggins and Canadian Olympic track and field sprinter Marita Payne-
Wiggins. It is clear he inherited a great deal from his parents as he
frequently sent crowds into a frenzy with gravity-defying slam dunks during his
senior season at Huntington Prep in West Virginia.
Wiggins is not just an athlete, though, he is a complete basketball player. He
has a great feel for the game and the versatility to play multiple positions
right away. His jump shot is accurate enough to keep opponents honest and he
executes the euro-step to finish off drives so well you would think he served
an apprenticeship under Manu Ginobili.
The Jayhawks already had a very strong class of incoming talent before Wiggins
officially joined the fold. Joel Embiid, the top-rated center in the class, and
swingman Wayne Selden gave Self a pair of All-Americans to begin his rebuilding
Self also bolstered his backcourt with Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene.
Frankamp's touch from 3-point range and overall basketball savvy made him the
best high school guard in the state of Kansas, while Greene built his own
reputation as a marksman from beyond the arc.
Frank Mason also joined the class to add depth at point guard.
The addition of Wiggins will only enhance what the group of incoming freshman
is able to do. He will be the focal point of the opposition's defensive
game plan each game, which should free up Frankamp and Greene for plenty of
open shots. Selden's team-first approach to the game can stay the same as he
will have less pressure to put up big numbers right away.
The combination of Wiggins and Embiid is a dream pairing for Self's high-low
motion offense. The rookie duo will create mismatch problems for opposing
There will be a lot of pressure on Wiggins to succeed due to the mountains of
hype that have been constructed over the past few years, but it is very
unlikely he will leave too many disappointed.
Wiggins delivered a solid performance on the grand stage in the McDonald's All-
American game in early April when he paced the East squad with 19 points in 24
minutes. He has already become a celebrity at a very young age despite his
preference to shy away from the spotlight.
Wiggins became a fan favorite during his days in Huntington. Mayor Steve
Williams even proclaimed it was Andrew Wiggins Day in the city on March 28 when
he was acknowledged as an All-American.
He hasn't let the enormous amount of attention go to his head, either. Instead
of a big press conference to announce his intent to become a Jayhawk, he
elected for a low-key, private ceremony at St. Joseph Central Catholic School
in front of a small group of classmates, family and close friends with very
limited members of the media invited.
Although it would have been fun to see Wiggins participate in the ACC or join
Calipari's recruiting class, he made a very wise decision. Self's system plays
to his strengths, and while Wiggins will be the go-to-guy, he will still have
plenty of help around him.
While no one can be sure as to exactly how successful Wiggins will be at the
next level, it is an absolute certainty that Allen Fieldhouse will be buzzing
on a nightly basis.
The Sports Network