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WACO, Texas -- Andrew Wiggins is both blessed and cursed to be considered the next LeBron James.
Who wouldn't want to be heralded as the next great NBA talent at just 18? But it's accompanied by expectations that can really never be met.
Whatever Wiggins does at Kansas, it's never good enough.
Score 20 points and folks think he should've scored 30. Grab eight rebounds and critics wonder why he didn't get 10. Have a few assists, get a couple of steals and throw down a couple of dunks and the reaction is always the same:
Give us more. Then give us even more.
|It's clear that Wiggins is still learning the game. He went from scoring a career-best 29 against Iowa State to a more pedestrian seven points the next game at Texas.|
That's what's wrong with our society these days: Instant analysis reigns, thanks to saturation coverage and social media.
We can't even enjoy a talent like Wiggins because we're too busy comparing him to James, whom we compared to Kobe Bryant, whom we compared to Michael Jordan. For now, it always goes back to Jordan.
MJ is the standard -- easily, the best player of his generation and one of the best ever.
And he won titles -- six of them -- setting yet another standard of excellence. Kobe seems stuck on five, and it might take a miracle for him to get another with the Los Angeles Lakers.
LeBron has two and he's positioning the Miami Heat to win another, which would be three in a row, a feat Jordan accomplished twice.
These days, LeBron is the world's best player. So we're trying to see if Wiggins, Randle and Parker will be better than him.
We want them to dominate every game. When they don't, we question every facet of their game.
Jordan may have hit the game-winning shot against Georgetown as a freshman at North Carolina to win the NCAA tournament, but he still had no idea he was going to become one of the greatest professional players ever.
We should let athletes mature and develop. But our desire for the next best thing just won't allow it.
"This is different than anything I've ever gone through," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "We've had some pretty good players, but nobody they ever put on the cover of Sports Illustrated and compared to [Wilt] Chamberlain and [Danny] Manning."
Wiggins is averaging a team-high 15.9 points and 6.0 rebounds, while playing a team-high 31.9 minutes per game for one of the premier programs in college basketball. And it ain't good enough for a lot of people.
Sometimes he dominates, like when he scored 27 against TCU on Jan. 25 and followed it up four days later with 29 against Iowa State. In other games he'll play like the freshman he is, trying to figure out his role, like against Texas on Saturday, when he scored seven points.
Being a prodigy isn't easy.
"The hype has created a negative tone in people's mind, because the hype made people believe he should get 22 points and 10 rebounds every night," Self said.
"He's not [Kevin] Durant. That's not what he does. He's not a scorer like that. He's a slashing wing who's figuring it out."
In a 69-52 win over Baylor on Tuesday, Wiggins seldom attacked the basket in the first half, seemingly content to hang around the perimeter and let his teammates generate offense.
Wiggins took his first shot, a wild layup that barely touched the rim, with 4:29 left in the first half.
That's about the time a member of Baylor's student section at the Ferrell Center shouted, "How many points does LeBron 2.0 have?"
The answer? None.
You're certainly welcome to blame Self's offense or Baylor coach Scott Drew's zone defense.
This is Self's 11th season at Kansas, and former point guard Sherron Collins is his only player to average more than 18 points a game (18.9 in 2009). Self's offense works inside out, which is why the power forward position often leads the team in scoring. The coach also demands his teams share the ball, so his is not the program for a player who wants 20 shots a game.
With a minute left in the first half at Baylor, Wiggins was 0-for-3 from the field, with an assist, two steals and three rebounds.
He looked nothing like a dude who will be one of the top three picks in the NBA draft.
Then he stole yet another pass, took a few dribbles and launched a contested jump shot, which is different from heaving the ball, that dropped.
That play clearly ignited Wiggins.
In the second half, Wiggins repeatedly attacked the basket, which resulted in him taking six free throws in the first eight minutes of the second half.
And with Kansas leading 49-44 with 9:28 left in the contest, Wiggins bailed out a poor possession with a contested step-back 3-pointer. Then he beat everyone down the court for an uncontested dunk after Baylor missed a jumper.
On Kansas' next possession, Wiggins hung around the perimeter until Baylor ignored him, then he cut toward the basket for a thunderous alley-oop, completing a personal 7-0 run and giving Kansas a 12-point lead. He wound up with 14 points on the night.
"I have talks with him that say you have to compete a lot harder because you're gonna get everybody's best shot," Self said. "That's the thing: At his age, it's taking him awhile to get.
"He has to be at his best every night. It's like that with Jabari and a couple of others. If we lose, it's going to be Kansas and Wiggins failed. He has to learn to accept that and prevent that and he can do it by being aggressive. When you talk about upside and talent, there's not many guys out there like him."
It's up to us to appreciate Wiggins' talent, instead of complaining about why he's not already as good as LeBron.