It's only just the beginning for Andrew Wiggins-mania

Friday June 21st, 2013

A photo from the official Kansas Twitter account Wednesday did a pretty good job explaining the hysteria brewing in Lawrence right now. The reaction to the dunk above unearthed a few more layers of the insanity to come. Oh, and by the way –- it’s coming, and Andrew Wiggins better be ready. What he’s about to face over the next 12 months is going to include some of the most scrutinized, high-pressure, compressed coverage any college basketball player has ever been forced to endure.

The hype began well before Wiggins signed with Kansas last month. National recruiting analysts, NBA front office types and pretty much anyone else who watched Wiggins play came to the same basic conclusion: Wiggins is the truth. The next guaranteed, cant-miss, A-list mega-star. Calling him the best player in his recruiting class was an insult, an improper classification of greatness. Because not only was Wiggins unanimously anointed the crown jewel of this loaded 2013 recruiting class, he was one of the few Kevin Durant-type generational talents who only come along every once in a while. He wasn’t just going to change a single team’s season; the entire national championship race would revolve around Wiggins’ transformative talents.

None of that hyperbole means anything yet; Wiggins hasn’t played a meaningful minute of college basketball, and won’t do so for a few more months. And yet the hype machine has already cranked up to deafening levels. Still more than five months away from the start of the season, Wiggins’ every move is being digitally captured, disseminated over various social media platforms (naturally) and blown up to epic proportions. We already knew Wiggins was one of the most insane athletes, and insane dunkers, of the past decade. Every one of his intensely-covered high school games and AAU events screamed “franchise-altering superstar.”

The moment Wiggins declared his college intentions, there wasn’t a soul in Kansas or the Big 12 or anywhere else who didn’t know what was coming. Well, we’re just starting to get the first glimpses of what Wiggins is capable of, and the situation is already in danger of flying off the rails.

With zero games played, an empty season stat sheet, and no more than a week of practices in the books, Wiggins’ legend is already unimpeachable. It’s only June. By the time we get to Midnight Madness, and have been subjected to hours upon hours of Wiggins practice highlights –- with constant Tweets and Vines and tales of mythical athletic feats interspersed within -– the scrutiny will verge on the unbearable. Expectations will soar through the roof.

The proliferation of social media over the past half-decade makes Wiggins an interesting and wholly novel case study. Can the modern super-recruit, the LeBron Jamesian destroyer of basketball worlds, endure the microscopically-zoomed media spotlight of 2013? Will the mountain of expectations overburden him to a fault? How will he react to the rumors of NBA teams contemplating throwing games on the off chance of landing Wiggins through the Draft lottery?

Each of these developments is fascinating in its own right, and the bad news is, we still have a brutally long offseason to get through before Wiggins-mania reaches full-throat. You don’t have to wait until November to make note of the hype stampede building in Jayhawk land.

One tweet, a video, and some scattered reporter hearsay got the wheel rolling. Through the rest of the offseason, Wiggins’ legend will gain more steam every week, and when the long-awaited KU season-opener comes to pass, and people begin dusting off Wiggins’ national player of the year-sweeping award chest five months in advance, the noise will boom so unrelentingly loud that Wiggins won’t possibly be able to live up. The bar will have been set to an insurmountably high standard. Wiggins will never be the player his offseason buzz builds him up to be. No way. Tracking the Jayhawks through Wiggins’ first (and likely only) year on a college court to find out if he can –- if he can match the predictably untouchable statistical projections thrown his way, if he can lead Kansas to a national championship romp, if he can exert his individual dominance over Kentucky’s freshmen-led group, if he can manage to avoid any and all wisps of doubts about his status as the best player in an immensely talented 2013 recruiting class -– is one of many blooming storylines that, even from this early date, makes the 2013-14 season an incredibly exciting proposition.

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