Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker have played only one game each collegiately, but the growing hype surrounding these star freshmen has them competing for an elite status next summer.
Well before that, they’ll face each other on the court in Parker’s hometown.
Wiggins and fifth-ranked Kansas will try to spoil Parker’s return to Chicago and beat No. 4 Duke in a rare meeting between two of the top programs in the nation Tuesday night.
Wiggins and Parker are two of the most highly regarded freshmen to enter college in years, likely one-and-done stars with their sights set on next summer’s NBA draft. While both at times have been thought of as the favorite to go No. 1 overall, one could earn an early advantage with this head-to-head matchup.
Parker helped Duke get off to a strong start by scoring 22 points with six rebounds while sinking 8 of 10 from the floor in just 23 minutes of Friday’s 111-77 win over Davidson.
“First game in college – are you kidding me?” coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Parker, who attended the same Chicago high school as Derrick Rose.
A return home may give Parker added motivation.
“It’s just very good that we scheduled a game back in Chicago, playing at the United Center,” Parker said. “My fans get to see me. That’s what’s most important. Just being here is great, but in all reality we just have to come up with a win.
“I’m really excited.”
Wiggins didn’t get quite the same glowing reviews for his collegiate debut, finishing with 16 points and three steals while hitting 5 of 9 from the field — 2 of 4 from beyond the arc — in Kansas’ 80-63 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Friday.
“He did some good things,” coach Bill Self said. “I think he can be more aggressive, but I think all the guys can be more aggressive.”
Wiggins and the young Jayhawks may have to be against Duke, which made a staggering 70.4 percent from the floor — 13 of 21 from 3-point range — against the Wildcats.
Beyond Parker’s sterling debut, the Blue Devils also got 22 points from fellow forward Rodney Hood, 21 from guard Quinn Cook and 20 from guard Rasheed Sulaimon.
Perhaps that balance is why Self is apprehensive of facing Duke so early in the season.
“I think we’re ready,” Self said. “I wish that we had a couple more weeks, and I’m sure all teams this time of year wish they had a couple more weeks before they play somebody of the quality of opponent Duke is.”
Like Parker, Wiggins has a strong supporting cast, which includes sophomores Perry Ellis and Andrew White III. They had 12 points each against the Warhawks, while Ellis pulled down eight rebounds and blocked two shots.
Freshman center Joel Embiid also showed outstanding flashes in his debut, totaling nine points and grabbing four rebounds but also committing four fouls in 11 minutes. He and fellow freshman guard Wayne Selden Jr. (eight points, four assists) are also considered likely lottery picks.
Naadir Tharpe is expected to be available after serving a one-game suspension for playing in an unauthorized summer league game. The junior guard averaged 5.5 points and 3.1 assists as a reserve last season, but he’ll have to fend off freshman Frank Mason for a starting spot.
Mason had three points and five assists in 18 minutes at the point Friday.
While many scouts may be tracking Parker and Wiggins to judge their status for June, Duke and Kansas are looking for a lesson that could lead to success come March.
“It’s a big learning curve for us right now,” Hood said. “We’re a young team and in order for us to be confident, we gotta do it through accomplishment. We gotta beat really good teams. We gotta go into Chicago and make things happen.”
Duke leads the all-time series with Kansas 7-2. Three of those meetings have come since 2000, including a 68-61 Blue Devils win in Maui on Nov. 23, 2011.
“It’s going to be a pretty good matchup, two high-profile teams,” White said, “but we’re not paying too much attention to the hype that’s out there.”