College basketball has been electrified with the arrival of this year’s top prospect, Andrew Wiggins. The son of a former basketball player and track star, Wiggins’ spent his early years in Canada and journeyed to high school basketball’s powerhouse, Huntington St. Joseph Prep in West Virginia. Now, he is at the University of Kansas, where college basketball fans are following him closely.
Already expected to spend only a year with the Jayhawks before bolting to the NBA next summer, fans are heralding Wiggins as the next great NBA superstar after LeBron James. Some even consider him be one of the best players in what is anticipated to be the most talent-rich NBA draft since 2003, which produced the likes of James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. Along with fellow freshman Jabari Parker of Duke University and Julius Randle of the University of Kentucky, Wiggins is expected to lead the superstars of the NBA’s next generation.
Despite the massive hype surrounding the so-called Maple Jordan, little is known of Wiggins beyond a series of YouTube highlight videos and a handful of early games with Kansas. Wiggins has shown himself to be an offensive wizard, using quick crossovers and his signature right-to-left spin to penetrate to the basket and finish at the rim. On defense, Wiggins uses his athleticism to produce turnovers and, despite being a small forward, possesses the vertical to block shots as well.
Despite Wiggins’ clear talent for basketball and his huge potential in both college basketball and the NBA, a damper must be put on the hype. Many videos show him playing against inferior high school competition. Against more formidable college competition, holes in Wiggins’ game have emerged. Wiggins has appeared unpolished through the Jayhawks’ first few games, prone to making risky plays and lacking a refined shooting touch. Wiggins’ gambles on offense have left him exposed to turnovers and missed scoring opportunities, revealing his need for improvement and seasoning.
Further criticism of Wiggins has stemmed from his tendency to take plays off during games and lose focus. Compared to Parker, with whom he matched up during Kansas’ recent contest against the Duke Blue Devils, Wiggins seemed to lack intensity, allowing Parker to showcase his own, more NBA-ready skillset. Wiggins has shown his vulnerability, and it is apparent he will have serious competition from Parker, Randle and other talented freshmen.
For all the talk of Wiggins being a transcendent player for basketball’s next generation, a broader perspective must be taken when watching him play. Despite his plethora of skills, Wiggins still needs time to develop his game in preparation for the NBA. In all likelihood, the entirety of the college basketball season will be needed to properly assess Wiggins’ skills and NBA readiness, not simply highlight videos and a handful of early games.
Charles Surette is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]