Statistically, Andrew Wiggins is having a fine freshman campaign. 16.4 points, 6.1 rebounds per game all while shooting over .50 percent from the field would lead you to believe such things. But please, don’t let the free world know of such nonsense.
Nothing was more documented coming into the 2013-14 college basketball season than the Andrew Wiggins hype. Many “experts” talked him up to the point of nausea, described how he put the Kansas Jayhawks over the top and compared him to LeBron James. All of which is to say that he had a zero percent chance of living up to the other-worldly expectations set for him — set for him, mind you, by other people who probably only saw highlights of him or a handful of AAU games.
It wasn’t Wiggins’ hype. It was theirs, the experts. In the meantime they were ignoring Jabari Parker’s high school injuries, Julius Randle being a monster and other relevant, possibly more immediately important stories, the hype was more important because (really) it fit a narrative they wanted to push. One that would result in hits on their websites, listeners to their radio shows and eyeballs staring at their picture-box networks.
None of that is such a horrible thing. Well, until it is. Until Wiggins doesn’t live up to their version of whatever they expected him to be. Which they probably wanted anyway. One can only assume, but not in such eloquent or thoughtful words, that the “experts” knew he wasn’t going to live up to the hype because it was going to be impossible. The bar was raised so high, so unrealistic that it there would be a better chance of Marty Jannetty coming back to the WWE and winning the WWE title than there would be of Wiggins even remotely resembling some form of man-beast, eater-of-souls at the college level.
So, naturally, the narrative has changed from “Wiggins is the greatest thing since sliced-bread” to “Wiggins is a disappointment” — which, technically, is not even close to being accurate.
Not everyone is saying such uneducated things. That is more of me generalizing the media, fans or whomever. You know, much in the same way some of them generalized Wiggins as a player down to cliches and random comparisons to basketball’s biggest names. Really, lazy journalism that results in a lot of hits because you combine the sport’s biggest star (LeBron) with the most hyped college recruit in years.
The end result is exactly what you would assume it would be when a player doesn’t hold up their end of another person’s bargain. Disaster, backlash and more criticisms of the player for not living up to some weird, unnatural billing.
You can turn to the mean streets of Twitter during any Kansas game to see what I am talking about. Wiggins — who is actually a solid defender — can be working hard on both ends. Even attempting to carry the offense during clutch time. But still, even if he were to score over 20, the story wouldn’t be of Wiggins’ ill-fated, but good attempt at putting Kansas over the top. Instead, it will be about whether or not Wiggins played “that” good of a game. Or, possibly, how his “20-ish some odd points” were not as good as the box-score would indicate — as if the eight or so he scored in the last two minutes were magically worthless.
It goes back to the expectations from the preseason. Sans Wiggins donning a cape, saving a homeless child from the streets and drinking an entire gallon of lukewarm milk in under 30 seconds, he can do no right in the eyes of the expectation beholders.
It also doesn’t help that everything Wiggins does is under the NBA Draft Microscope. Which shouldn’t really be relevant during a college basketball season, nevertheless a game. Yet, it does because something — I guess?
I get it. You get it. We, as people, collectively get it. The end-game is the NBA and there are a slew of top-notch prospects coming out for the 2014 NBA Draft. You know what else, though? It is December, not March. Wiggins is still growing as a player. Other players are still growing. The in-conference schedules have yet to begun for anyone. We, honestly, don’t know a single iota about anything yet. All we are doing, at best, is speculating, educated guessing and pushing whatever narratives it is that we want.
We can highlight the differing specific Wiggins related narratives if you want:
Wiggins is averaging 24 points over his last two games. Both Kansas losses. Depending on your narrative, point of view or allegiance, Wiggins was either giving a valiant effort, improving and showing some of his best game as a player during the losses or he didn’t do enough or can’t be the real-deal because the Jayhawks lost. Neither of them are wrong as debating points, but in reality it’s a combination of the two. Wiggins is clearly improving as the season goes on. Which shouldn’t be a shocker.
Kansas is also not having the greatest success at the moment. But pointing the finger directly at Wiggins and Wiggins alone is nonsensical. The Jayhawks have another freshman, Joel Embiid, whose stock is starting to bubble up. Embiid, who wasn’t projected to develop this quickly or nearly was as hyped as Wiggins, has been looking good as of late. So, because he is new and shiny to the casual eye, Embiid is free of blame and he continues to get praised. Which is something I think is good. Embiid’s development has been phenomenal and he is going to be a major player for Kansas as the season grown long in the tooth.
But, you know what few people were saying after Kansas’ losses to the Florida Gators or the Missouri Tigers? That Bill Self needs to do a far better job of getting Embiid some honest touches in the paint. That Embiid and Wiggins might end up being as good a one-two punch in college hoops, but that it might just take some time to develop. I mean, god forbid we give some teenagers some time to develop, build chemistry and learn how to play together. Since they have only played together for nine games.
Sure, I am probably ranting and raving over a subject that most sane fans get. That we should appreciate Wiggins for what he is now, what he is likely to become and that it’s going to take some time for him to be anywhere near the player he is going to end up. That, at the end of the day, the hype was just the hype and not anywhere near the reality of the situation.
It saddens me, though, that all of the sane people have to listen/hear/read about the disappointment that is Wiggins until the season is over. Because it won’t end until the Jayhawks are eliminated from the NCAA Tournament (which would surely be labeled as being Wiggins’ fault) or they win the whole shebang (which will somehow be credited to nearly everyone but him).
Even worse, I feel bad for Wiggins. He had to try to live up to things that were not obtainable. Now he has to deal with a backlash that has a foundation built on those horribly uneducated expectations. Which is like saying you are furious with your infant child for not reading Moby Dick because you expected him/her to read it. When, in reality, you’re the batshit loon who set the expectations so high that your child could do nothing but fail.
I guess, in 1300 words, all I am asking is for some sensibility while dealing with Andrew Wiggins. He is what he is. A really talented college basketball player. A guy who is going to improve as the season goes on. He is not a god, however. So let’s just leave it at that and stop listening to people who expected him to be one.