Andrew Wiggins leaves Kansas and will fulfill his promise elsewhere
Andrew Wiggins officially left Kansas on Monday but left many wanting more long before that. This is true because the Jayhawks did not advance beyond the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament, let alone win a national title. But for some, it's also true because Wiggins was not the greatest player ever to register for class while registering buckets, because Kansas did not wind up claiming both a Canadian who invented the game, James Naismith, as well as the one who reinvented it.
If it is possible to establish a complicated legacy in less than a year's time, Wiggins has. He began his one and only season as the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft and finished it in approximately the same place, or at least no worse than a slot or two down the board. What happened in between is subject to interpretation.
"Time goes so fast," Wiggins told reporters at a news conference in Lawrence, Kan., on Monday. "I wish I had all four years."
Yes, if only his eligibility hadn't expired with the 2013-14 season. But in that one year, Wiggins put together arguably the best freshman season in Kansas history, setting the records for scoring average (17.1), points (597) and free throws made (176) while recording the third-most field goals (189). Also arguable: That for the better part of the year, he was somewhat unremarkable compared to players on his own team.
The other four regular Kansas starters had better effective field goal percentages. Even the 7-foot Joel Embiid had a better assist percentage than his fellow prized freshman: 11.3 to Wiggins' 9.1.
Wiggins' win shares total -- a measure of how many wins are attributable to his play -- was 4.9, which tied Ellis for the team-high. Broaden the context to his fellow touted freshmen, and Kentucky's Julius Randle (5.7), Duke's Jabari Parker (5.5) and Syracuse's Tyler Ennis (5.5) outpaced Wiggins.
There's a fair enough argument to make that Wiggins was surrounded by talent and therefore adjusted or deferred in order to fit in as opposed to taking over. But with Embiid out for the first weekend of NCAA tournament play, the stage was his, and he had to claim it. And he shrunk from the moment, making just 1 of 6 shots and scoring only four points against Stanford in the last college game he would ever play. To his credit, Wiggins maturely fielded all manner of questions afterward. He took the blame. But for a player who had averaged 31 points per game in a three-game stretch that ended one week earlier, taking command was more critical.
That happened only occasionally, which maybe was to be expected from a kid who just turned 19 in February. Everyone else was more ready for Andrew Wiggins to dominate than Andrew Wiggins was. Instead, he was just a very good college basketball player who was a vital cog for a Big 12 regular season champion, a humble standout as opposed to a prima donna. Whether there's any blame to be assigned in that scenario, well, that's complicated.
Seemingly clearer? There was more there. Wiggins just won't unearth it at Kansas. "As good as he was for us," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said Monday, "he's only scratching the surface of what he can do."