Andrew Wiggins just can’t seem to get it right. No, even on his way to leading the No. 7 Kansas Jayhawks in minutes and scoring as a freshman, the most prized recruit in recent college basketball history has been written off by many as a disappointment.
Somewhere along the line, between the magazine covers and endless laud from recruitment analysts, Wiggins ceased being human and became a myth. “The Next LeBron” was to be held to an unreachable standard as evident by his season largely being labeled a letdown despite being a Wooden Award finalist and averaging 16 points and six rebounds per game.
Though, while Wiggins has certainly been a key contributor to this year’s Jayhawk squad, he’s admittedly lacked a truly season-defining game or moment. He’s less aggressive than coach Bill Self prefers, particularly in critical situations, and endures cold streaks during which the freshman simply can’t buy a basket. With Joel Embiid‘s impending absence, the timing for the proverbial light bulb to go on has never been better.
We’ve seen Wiggins’ best: He scored 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting while collecting seven rebounds in the Jayhawks’ victory over then-No. 16 Iowa State just two weeks ago. But we’ve also witnessed his worst: He notched seven points on just 2-of-12 from the field in 30 minutes during their loss against unranked Texas the following game.
Finding a middle ground will be crucial for Kansas and Wiggins — inconsistency isn’t a luxury many can afford in the tournament. With the weakest part of their conference schedule upcoming, Self’s focus will surely be on transforming Wiggins from a very good player into a superstar prior to March.
This tends to be the time of the season in which freshman begin to put things together, and there’s no reason to believe that Wiggins will be any different. He’s already shown a propensity to rise to the occasion; just take a look at his stats against quality competition.
Against teams ranked within the AP Top 25, Wiggins shoots over 44 percent while averaging 17.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game — all three figures an increase from his overall numbers. With only quality competition remaining by the NCAA tournament, these numbers are certainly encouraging for Jayhawks fans.
If Wiggins plans elevate his game by tournament time, Kansas’ next two matchups against TCU and Texas Tech afford him the perfect opportunity. Look for Self to give him every chance to bloom into the superstar he’s been on the verge of becoming this season.
While his season hasn’t been a letdown by any means, there’s clearly room for growth in the 18-year-old. With Embiid sidelined and the Jayhawks in need of a leader, expect that growth to come sooner than later.