KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Andrew Wiggins’ teammates at Kansas would have every reason to be jealous of him, jealous of his talent and more than anything, jealous of all the media attention showered upon him.
If you’re a Kansas Jayhawk, you probably can’t go anywhere without someone asking you what it’s like to be playing with Wiggins, college basketball’s No. 1 recruit.
And it got so bad Tuesday during Big 12 media day at Sprint Center, a young reporter actually asked Jayhawks senior forward Tarik Black what it was like to be Andrew Wiggins and receive all that hype. Yep, the reporter mistook Black for Wiggins.
Black, though, to his credit, didn’t seem insulted and simply rolled with it.
“Well, I’m not Andrew but I’m sure he’ll be out here answering questions soon,” Black said, smiling.
It’s possible that Wiggins’ Jayhawks teammates already are used to being in the back seat, even though Kansas hasn’t played a game yet. Ever since Wiggins signed with Kansas last spring, the media can’t get enough of him, while the rest of the Jayhawks seemingly have slipped into anonymity.
Jayhawks coach Bill Self is fully aware of the potential for envy sifting through the locker room.
“But there’s not much you can do,” Self said. “I mean, just imagine if Andrew was media-hungry or something. You know, he didn’t ask to do Sports Illustrated or GQ. He didn’t ask to be on the front of USA Today. He didn’t ask for anything and Andrew is about as humble as you can get.”
So far, Wiggins’ teammates are completely understanding.
“The students here love him, of course,” point guard Naadir Tharpe said. “They love all guys from Kansas. But to get someone like that here, it brings more love for everyone in the program.
“I’m excited that he’s here just as much as the fans are.”
Black, a newcomer after transferring from Memphis, doesn’t see a problem with the hype.
“I think it’s great having him around and all the hype,” Black said. “It’s great having him at practice every day. It makes all of us that much better.”
What helps is that Wiggins’ teammates already accept him for who he is.
“He’s humble,” freshman Wayne Selden said last week. “He really handles it well for all the pressure there is. That makes it easier on all us.”
There’s even a feeling of togetherness being established, especially among the newcomers.
“I’m not a freshman but I’m a newcomer,” Black said. “And I can tell you, it’s all like being part of a family already. We’re all pieces to the puzzle, Andrew included. It’s a cliche, but it’s true: You take away one piece of the puzzle and it’s not complete.”
Wiggins certainly appreciates that there is no resentment.
“The guys are easy to get along with,” he said. “I don’t ask for (publicity). I’m comfortable with it, but I don’t ask for it. Sometimes I don’t like it.
“But I know I haven’t even played a game yet.”
For all the hype about Wiggins’ talent, Tharpe also knows it is likely Wiggins will struggle, especially early on.
“It’s hard at this level,” Tharpe said. “And he understands that. Sometimes he’ll ask for help, like where he should be on the court. He wants to learn and get better. I think it’s my job and our job to pick him up when we have to. That’s the way it is for all the new guys. We have to be leaders for them.”
Even if it means playing second fiddle when it comes to media attention.
“We’re OK with that,” Tharpe said. “To us, it’s all in fun. We have fun with it. To us, he’s just one of the guys. I know I can’t look at him without laughing sometimes. He’ll just do things. …
“Like the other day, he was going to take a shower and he had his ankle bracelets on. We’re all kind of looking at each like, ‘He’s not showering with those on, is he?’ And he walks all the way to the shower and then notices he has them on, and he walks all the way back to his locker. We were all laughing and so was he.
“He’s just a good guy. And he’s down to earth.”
Wiggins will have to be, because the media hype will continue to be out of this world.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at email@example.com.