Andrew Wiggins blazes own trail with Kansas decision | Basketball | CBC Sports

NBAAndrew Wiggins blazes own trail with Kansas decision

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 | 02:39 PM

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Canadian basketball star Andrew Wiggins, alongside his mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, announced his commitment to the University of Kansas on Tuesday in Huntington, W. Va., where he attends high school. (Holten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch/Associated Press) Canadian basketball star Andrew Wiggins, alongside his mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, announced his commitment to the University of Kansas on Tuesday in Huntington, W. Va., where he attends high school. (Holten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch/Associated Press)

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Andrew Wiggins's poker face and taciturnity do Canada proud. In an industry and an age where everything leaks, he evidently kept his decision to attend the University of Kansas -- with attention to it snowballing in two countries for the last six months -- completely to himself.
The master poker player played it close to the vest, right to the end.

At 12:09 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Andrew Wiggins told his parents he wouldn't be attending their alma mater, Florida State University, and would instead be going to the University of Kansas.

I put it like that because they didn't apparently know his choice until that moment, in a room in Huntington, W. Va., with no live TV cameras -- only a local reporter named Grant Taylor to subsequently tweet out the news to the rest of the world.

Wiggins's poker face and taciturnity do Canada proud. In an industry and an age where everything leaks, he evidently kept this decision -- with attention to it snowballing in two countries for the last six months -- completely to himself. If CSIS needs secret-keepers, they may want to enlist him when his basketball days are over.

His choice is somewhat surprising, but not shocking. We knew Kansas was very much on his radar when Wiggins's high school coach, Rob Fulford, heaped praise on Kansas coach Bill Self's visit to Huntington a few months back. With that, however, came the inevitable speculation about why it couldn't happen -- Kansas having an apparel contract with Adidas, for example.

Going to Florida State seemed to make so much sense. Wiggins's parents, Mitchell and Marita, had been basketball and track stars, respectively, there in the 1980s. His best bud from the GTA, and Huntington, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, had already committed to the Seminoles. Kentucky was already too stacked with blue-chip recruits. North Carolina hovered, but still somehow seemed like an outsider.

In the end, family ties and cynical corporate viewpoints didn't materialize and the 18-year-old christened "Maple Jordan" chose to blaze his own trail.

Wiggins instantly breathes life back into the Jayhawks, who lost all five starters from last year's Sweet 16 squad. Kansas is always a Big 12 powerhouse with Self at the helm, but the addition of Wiggins to go along with fellow recruit Wayne Selden puts the Jayhawks in Final Four conversations.

And think of this: Wiggins, the great Canadian hope, playing on James Naismith Court at Allen Fieldhouse. It's also worth noting that he's only two hours away from his big brother Nick, who's going into his senior year at Wichita State.

It was clear throughout this selection process, however, that it wasn't an endearing one to Wiggins. If there was one question he couldn't stand the past year, it was "which college are you going to?" It makes you realize that if the NBA hadn't instituted the one-and-done rule in 2006, he'd be going pro in June.

You wonder if his Canadian pedigree had something to do with that. Back home, hyperbolic collegiate athletics -- understandably -- don't mean as much culturally. However, he is (and we are by extension) one step closer to the ultimate goal. At least, for starters, Canadians will actually be able to watch more of his games on TV next year.

The college ride will very likely only last one year. But now the ride really begins. And it's going to be fun to watch.

NBA playoff thoughts

After a mostly lucklustre first round in both conferences, the second round out west is emerging as damn good television. There was a thought in some quarters going into all this that the Memphis Grizzlies could be a dark horse Finals team. Given the many variables now, there is a fairly good chance this will happen.

On Jan. 31, Memphis played Oklahoma City in its first game after trading leading scorer Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors. While the short-handed Grizzlies lost by 17, the game foreshadowed what was to come for both teams. Russell Westbrook earned a third-quarter benching thanks to some sniping, allowing the Grizzlies back in the door for a while, thanks in part to 23 points from former Raptor Jerryd Bayless.

Three and a half months later, the Thunder are finding out what life without Westbrook is really like. It had become a rite of spring the past few years to pile on him for his frequent shoot-first, ask-questions-later game. Yet without him, the Thunder are exactly what they are showing themselves to be against the Grizzlies -- Kevin Durant furiously trying to win games by himself. And despite the efforts of Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City is in over its head.

Kendrick Perkins has been fully exposed by the battle-tested frontcourt of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, while the aforementioned Bayless has settled into a nice role off the bench with the Grizz. Starting point guard Mike Conley, who effectively replaced Gay as the team's volume shooter, has still played brilliant basketball and is the main reason for the team's low turnover percentage.

Add defensive stalwarts Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince on the wings, and it is crystal clear that this is a better team than it was with Gay (food for thought as Raptor fans await news on Bryan Colangelo). Memphis evokes memories of the 2004 Pistons, from the excellent defence to their big-man play right on down to Prince.

And we know the Grizzlies can beat San Antonio. They did it in the first round two years ago.
Can the Spurs overcome the Warriors' youth, though?

One group who may hope not is David Stern, Adam Silver and the NBA's front office. The Spurs' most recent Finals appearances (2005, '07) resulted in some pretty bad TV ratings -- even if Gregg Popovich alone is must-see-TV to many.

Steph Curry, wonky ankle and all, represents the only real superstar power left in the Western Conference playoffs (and the Bay Area is a bigger TV market). And man, is Curry fun to watch when he's on. It's sort of like seeing Allen Iverson in his prime, with better range.

That said, the catalyst for Golden State has been Andrew Bogut inside -- he's averaged 14 rebounds a game in this series going into Tuesday night.

You wonder how long the Warriors can keep this up, though.

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