Young stars a focus for national basketball outlets

Posted on Jan 21, 2014 in News and Sports

With freshman center Joel Embiid suddenly joining fellow freshman sensation Andrew Wiggins atop most NBA draft-board projections, national basketball writers have begun filling up the Allen Field House press room for men’s basketball’s Big 12 home games, and two notable articles are worth bringing to the attention of fans and alumni who don’t closely follow online sports journalism.

Andrew Sharp, staff editor at Grantland, arrived for Saturday’s showdown against rival Oklahoma State—which features its own young star, sophomore Marcus Smart—and turned in an insightful take on KU basketball history, the allure of Allen Field House, the fervor of the KU faithful, and, most especially, the rare opportunity of watching Wiggins, Embiid and Smart all on the same court at the same time … especially when that court is Naismith Court.

“You can’t walk into Allen Fieldhouse without being a little blown away that an arena like this even exists anymore,” Sharp writes. “The windows at the top of the gym make you feel like you’re in the 1970s. The wooden bleachers make you feel like it’s the 1950s. Then you look up, and the championship banners go back to the 1920s.

“Swaying student sections. Creepy religious chants. Minds being lost. Ears bleeding. That’s how you start a basketball game. This is why I’d always wanted to come to Kansas. … But none of it was ever enough to hop on a flight to the middle of the country and drive an hour from Kansas City to Lawrence. Wiggins and Embiid—’Wiggs’ and ‘Jo,’ as Bill Self calls them—changed all that. Having those guys on the same team this season is what took me from ‘should go to Kansas’ one day to ‘must go to Kansas’ as soon as possible.”

Former Kansas City Star KU beat writer Jason King, who gained national prominence with stints at Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.com and is now lead college basketball writer for BleacherReport.com, last week focused on Wiggins after gaining one of the first one-on-one interviews since the season began.

Wiggins admitted to King that his first few months of college basketball had been challenging: “It isn’t what I thought it was going to be. It’s a lot harder than I expected. Everything was moving so fast for me at first. Coach would get on me for not being aggressive or not running the floor hard every possession. He was hard on me. He was hard on everyone. He doesn’t care who you are.”

Assistant coach Kurtis Townsend told King, “While some of the other star freshmen are plateauing, Andrew is just now taking off. It’s like we told him all along: ‘It’s a marathon, dude. We want you playing your best ball in February and March.’ I think he’s right where we thought he’d be.”

Sharp’s piece for Grantland can be read here, while King’s Bleacher Report article is here.

—Chris Lazzarino

Tags: , , , ,

ESPN The Magazine’s cover story on superstar freshman Wiggins available online

Posted on Nov 1, 2013 in News and Sports

In what coach Bill Self promised will be the last extensive media access to freshman sensation Andrew Wiggins–a guard from Ontario, Canada, who is widely expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NBA Draft–ESPN The Magazine today rolled out its cover and feature story.

The story, photographs and a video interview of Wiggins by basketball commentator Jay Bilas can be found here: http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/9893495/kansas-jayhawks-andrew-wiggins-plans-make-most-freshman-year-espn-magazine.

In the story, Wiggins said that he chose Kansas in part because his brother Nick is a senior at Wichita State–”What does Kansas have that UNC doesn’t have? My brother’s an hour and 30 minutes away”–and because he felt a family atmosphere within the KU basketball program. “When I say that Kansas all rolls as one unit, they all roll as one unit,” Wiggins said in the article. “Like, everyone. They never leave anybody out.”

In his video interview with Bilas, Wiggins confirmed that he intends to spend only one year at KU. Asked by Bilas about his goals for the year, Wiggins responded, “Win another championship, a national championship. Following Anthony Bennett’s footsteps and going No. 1.” Bennett, also a Canadian, was last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, by the Cleveland Cavaliers, after his freshman year at UNLV. Asked by Bilas, “So that’s a goal of yours, is at the end of this season to put your name in the draft and be the No. 1 pick?”, Wiggins responded, “If that’s possible, if I can, yeah.”

As for expectations created by the magazine covers and even a photo spread in GQ, Wiggins said, “I feel them, but I never let it get to me.”

–Chris Lazzarino

Andrew Wiggins ESPN cover

Tags: , , , ,

Future Jayhawk already a gentleman

Posted on May 29, 2013 in News and Sports

Superstar basketball recruit Andrew Wiggins thanked his high school and two hometowns for their support in his exciting journey–not with a press conference, but by writing a heartfelt letter nearly 700 words long to the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, praising his classmates, principal, teachers and even the janitor.

“I am from Canada and I am going to Kansas to play college basketball,” Wiggins wrote. “I will hopefully be drafted to a city that I enjoy. But I will always have a place for Huntington in my heart and memories. I will not forget all the sacrifices they made for me and my teammates. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Wiggins’ entire letter can be read at http://www.herald-dispatch.com/sports/x1724820866/Huntington-Prep-star-thanks-community.
–Chris Lazzarino

Tags: , , ,