Monday, July 25, 2011

ANDREW WIGGINS: The "Phenom Buzz" is Building

Andrew Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins posterizes a Garner Road defender in the AAU 16U Super Showcase championship game. CIA Bounce won 66-55.

Written by: Jason Jordan

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Andrew Wiggins has the type of name recognition companies pay millions for. 

Not like Xerox or Google. Not even like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. Not yet. 

But walk into any AAU tournament, high school showcase or all-star game and mention his name and there’s a great chance that someone will incorporate the word “phenom.” 

“It’s crazy,” said Myck Kabongo, a freshman point guard at Texas who played with Wiggins last summer on the AAU circuit. “I think everyone puts ‘Andrew Wiggins’ and ‘phenom’ together. Most people haven’t even seen him play … Then again, I’m not saying they’re wrong in saying it, though.” 

Agree or not, the label -- at least for now -- is here to stay.

It didn’t hurt that Wiggins dropped 31 points and snagged 13 rebounds to lead CIA Bounce (Canada) past Garner Road (N.C.), 66-55, for the AAU 17U Super Showcase title Monday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports as part of the ESPN RISE Games. 

“I like the phenom stuff OK,” said Wiggins, a rising sophomore forward ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU Terrific 25. “I’m definitely not a cocky person, but I mean who wouldn’t want to be thought of as a phenom?” 

Perhaps the better question is does he warrant the label? Or is the skinny, 6-foot-7 athlete with tight handles, a consistent jump shot and freakish athletic ability a blind pick in a class we don’t know a whole lot about? 

C’mon, the kid is only 16 with dishpan hands. 

“But that’s the thing, when he was 13, he was proving himself against seniors in high school,” said Grassroots Canada AAU founder and coach Ro Russell, who coached Wiggins last summer. “I definitely don’t think you should put labels on kids too early, but sometimes it’s undeniable.” 

To Russell’s point, Wiggins has consistently matched and dominated McDonald’s All-Americans and probable lottery picks. 

Wiggins’ coming out party came in 2009 at the ScoutsFocus Elite 80 at Barton Community College in Wilson, N.C., where he played against McDonald’s All Americans like C.J. Leslie, now a sophomore at North Carolina State; Reggie Bullock, now a sophomore at North Carolina; and P.J. Hairston, now a freshman at North Carolina. 

Wiggins averaged 18 points per game and had so many Sportscenter-esque dunks that he became an instant YouTube sensation. His 40-second clip has more than three million views. 

“That got everything rolling for him,” said ScoutsFocus tournament director Joe Davis. “His skill level at 14 was on par or ahead of most high school seniors in attendance.” 

Wiggins, who averaged 22 points and eight rebounds this AAU season, got it honest. His father Mitchell was selected by the Pacers as the 23rd overall pick in the 1983 NBA Draft and played six seasons with the Bulls, Rockets and 76ers. Wiggins’ mother, Maritawon two silver medals for Canada in the 1984 Olympics.

“If you were trying to construct the perfect athlete you’d want his parents to have their credentials for sure,” CIA coach Mike George said. “It’s absolutely in his genes. Some players just have God-given ability and Andrew’s definitely one of them. He’s had some special moments.” 

Like last July when Wiggins scored 12 points in the bronze medal game to help Canada’s U17 National team squeak past Lithuania, 83-81, at the FIBA World Championships in Germany. James McAdoo led the USA U17 National team past Wiggins and the Canadians, 103-83, in the semifinals. Despite the lopsided loss, Wiggins scored a team-high 20 points in just 23 minutes. 

Here’s some perspective: Every player on Team USA’s roster, comprised of players from the 2011 and 2012 graduating classes, were consensus top 10-15-ranked players. It makes it easy to understand why coaches from North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse, Connecticut, Kansas, Marquette, North Carolina State and Florida State are in hot pursuit of Wiggins. 

“I couldn’t believe that he was so young,” said McAdoo, now a freshman at North Carolina. “He played with so much energy and he wasn’t scared out there at all. He’s a star.”

Wiggins will return to the U.S. this high school season after playing a year at Vaughan (Vaughan, Ontario, Canada), where he averaged 28 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks per game. He hasn’t made his mind up about which lucky school that will be yet. 

“I’ll decide soon,” Wiggins said. “Right now I’m just trying to get better. I don’t want to be the guy that had a lot of potential. I want to live up to it. I want to be the best, but I know I have a long way to go to truly be a phenom.” 

And so the quest begins. Original Article.

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