- Jason King
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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- A few weeks ago, Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins approached Bill Self with a question that had nothing to do with basketball.
"Coach," an exhausted Wiggins said, "why do I have to do this?"
The media demands for Wiggins, the No. 1-ranked recruit in the Class of 2013, who has already appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated and GQ, had become too much.
So, Self put a stop to it, declaring Wiggins off limits to the media before he has even played his first college game.
"From this point forward," Self said, "I don't think he needs to do anymore media. He can't go anywhere without being bombarded. It's wearing him down. The kid is operating under some pressure right now."
Wiggins, after all, has already been hailed as the best basketball prospect since LeBron James and the best college player since Kevin Durant. When he arrived in Kansas City this summer, fans who tracked his plane on the Internet were waiting at the airport for his autograph. If Wiggins isn't the No. 1 pick in next summer's NBA draft, it will almost feel like an upset.
"They're comparing him to [former KU great] Wilt Chamberlain," Self said, "and Chamberlain is the most dominant player that's ever played the game. The kid is 18 years old and he's never made a college basket, but we're going to compare him to Chamberlain? That's impossible.
"I feel for him, and I've never felt for players in regards to things like that. He can't live up to the hype."
If anything, Self just hopes Wiggins doesn't get overwhelmed by it.
As if the ridiculous expectations weren't enough, Wiggins thrust himself into the spotlight even more by picking Kansas, which boasts some of the most passionate fans in all of college basketball. Although no Kansas freshman since Danny Manning has caused this much buzz in Lawrence, any former Jayhawk will tell you he learned a thing or two by living his college years in the public eye.
Whether they're starring in the NBA, playing overseas in countries such as Italy or Poland, coaching or working in a field outside of basketball, some of the most popular names from KU's past were happy to set aside time to offer advice to Kansas' newest star. Some talked on camera, others over the phone. A few even typed letters to Wiggins and sent them via email. We've reprinted former guard Keith Langford's letter in full; below his letter is a collection of other former players' advice for Wiggins:
Keith Langford (2002-05)
I'll start by saying that what I'm about to write are merely suggestions. I feel like advice comes from those that you seek it from, are close to you and have had your best interest at hand since day one.
Which brings me to my first point: keep your circle tight. I honestly cannot relate to the attention, media and scrutiny that you have and will face, but having had a taste of it at KU combined with an 8-year professional career helps me give insight. Seek the opinions and take to heart only the comments of those around you before anyone outside of Canada knew who "The Wig" was -- LOL, I'm sure that's not your nickname but it has a nice ring to it.
Let fans be fans -- passionate fans always toe the line between loving and hating their favorite player. Hopefully, you won't make the mistakes of me and my family paying attention to message boards, opinionated columns (with negative undertones), and lastly, but maybe most importantly, the positive press -- it can be a monster as well.
Humility in the face of negativity and positivity keeps you balanced. Don't be afraid to let the other guys around you shine. A year from now you and your family's life will change forever. Some of the people around you will end their rodeo as yours is beginning. That being said, just be aware that your word and your day-to-day interactions with your teammates is what those guys in the locker room will remember most about you. From what I get reading [kusports.com], you're already handling that extremely well.
Coach Self -- LOL Coach Self -- in all honesty, you will appreciate him so much more after you've left the University than when you arrived -- I certainly have. Just listen and take everything with a grain of salt, because lord knows him and the coaching staff will be laughing about all the guys that give them material during practices. (LOL I've given plenty!).
One thing I will say about him is he'll push you so much that when you're finished, you'll be able to go to a place mentally and be so tough that nothing will [faze] you. Lastly, make sure the relationship is good because the team you get drafted to may be so bad, hell, they'll probably hire him!
Lastly, be you on the court. You'd much rather have someone tell you to turn it down a notch than to turn it up. The expectations and pressure should only come from the young dude looking at himself every day in the mirror -- the hell with what anyone else has to say. Keep healthy, be the best cheerleader on the bench at the end of games and, finally, thanks for leaving after this year because I like having my position as the 7th all-time leading scorer!
Peace my dude,
Nick Bahe (2004-05)
Part of being the best player is being the best teammate. For Kansas to make another run at a national title, Andrew Wiggins has to be KU's best teammate. Challenge yourself to push your teammates in a positive manner. Lead the team in high fives. I know that sounds corny but you have to lead the team's unselfish attitude. I once heard Coach Self say that the best teams are unselfish in their thoughts as well as their actions. You must embody this.
Nick Collison (2000-03)
It's definitely an adjustment. For me, I was shy coming in out of high school. It's an adjustment to feel like people are watching you. For the most part, people will be supportive and nice. But it can be a strange feeling to have people watch your every move. He probably had a little more of that than I had in high school, so he might be used to it.
Michael Lee (2002-05)
He obviously picked Kansas because he liked it, but there's going to be so much more he's going to find out about how great Kansas really is. When you run out of that tunnel and you've got 16,300 fans screaming for you every time … that's a feeling that's second to none.
You can't take one day for granted. Even your bad days are great days. Even on his bad days, he's going to wake up and be the most popular guy on campus, and people are going to worship the ground he walks on. Don't take that for granted. Get the most out of it you can.
Danny Manning (1985-88)
A lot of guys in this situation, with social media and the amount of interest that has been placed upon these young athletes at an early age … that's a lot. That's a lot, to be honest with you. He can't afford to make the mistakes that people before him may have made in college.
Someone could take a video of him trying to throw something in the trash and missing the trash can and hitting the floor, and he keeps on walking. Now, all of a sudden, he's a bad guy. All those camera phones and things of that nature that are out there these days are helping to define who you are, because perception is reality to a lot of people. People will judge you on one simple action. It's not fair and it's not right, but that's just how it is. He needs to understand that.
You have to know that every time you step out of your door, you're "on." You have to make the right decisions. We all make mistakes and we all grow and learn from them. He's just got to make sure he knows that every time he leaves his apartment or the locker room, he's on full display. Any and everything that he does could be put out there in the cyber world.
Lawrence was my home [before college], so I knew a lot of places I could go and I made a lot of friends there. I could go to someone's house or apartment and hang out and relax a little bit. But you can never completely let your guard down. There will be places he can go and feel comfortable with his environment and relax. But he won't always have that luxury.
Scot Pollard (1994-97)
I'd love to tell him to stay four years and enjoy a nice, long career there, but everyone knows that's not going to happen, barring some crazy circumstance. But for this year, just enjoy the ride. Enjoy being a Kansas basketball player. Enjoy being in college. Take care of your studies while you can. You can always come back and finish your degree. That's something that will be a point of pride in your personal life as you get older. Right now, it doesn't seem that important. But at least pay attention and get one year of credits under your belt, so when you're older and you do come back, you won't have to redo your freshman year.
But the main thing is to enjoy it, because after this year, you're a professional athlete. As someone who was able to go from four years of college -- and I wouldn't trade one minute of it -- to the NBA … The NBA? Great job. Loved it. It's an absolutely wonderful job. But it's not college. It's not as fun. There's no comparison. You're traveling so much more. A lot of the guys on your team, they're not always there to be your buddy and to hang out with you after the game. Sometimes, they're just trying to get your job. Sometimes, the veterans can be trusted. Sometimes, they play jokes on you because you're a rookie. That's all part of the job. It's about money. It's about security. The thoughts that enter into a professional athlete's mind are like, "I need more playing time or I'm not going to be able to get another contract, and therefore I won't be able to support my family." That doesn't enter into your mind in college. In college it's, "Hey, the next game is at Iowa State. Let's go beat 'em."
Enjoy the ride, because the next level -- as fun as it is and as great of a job as it is, with all the perks and the stardom and the fandom and the money and all that crap -- it's nothing like college.
Russell Robinson (2005-08)
He's not going to average 25 points, and I'm pretty sure he knows that. But once he gets a couple of wins and he feels that energy that the fans give him -- competing for a national championship -- all those thrills will keep him from wanting to score 25 a night. He'll have just as much fun winning at a high level.
On the flip side, one of the biggest problems you can face is the inner battle within yourself, because you can get bored with success. You can get complacent. Coach Self has a good system where, if that's a problem, it won't last long. He'll stay on you. He's very experienced. It's easy for him to tell when guys are just going through the motions. He knows how to knock it right out of them.
Tyshawn Taylor (2009-12)
Stay with your teammates, stay with your guys. Anything we did, we did together. We went out together, we went to eat together, we hung out together. It takes the attention off of one specific person and spreads it out throughout the group.
He's going to get a feel for Coach Self once he starts to play for him. He's a great coach. He's going to demand a lot from Wiggins. There will be a lot of times when Coach is going to be hard on you. He wants to win as bad as anyone else, so he's going to come out and try to pull the best out of guys.
Sometimes, he coaches you so hard you start to feel like it's unnecessary. You're like, "Man, we just had a two-hour practice and he wants me to stay and get more shots up or go watch film." It's a lot of stuff. I think he'll be fine. Coach is great at being hard on someone and then pulling them to the side and saying, "Look, this is why I yelled at you. This is what I see." He's good at smoothing things over. He's a player's coach.
Former Kansas players reach out to freshman Andrew Wiggins with words of advice.