Big brother says Andrew Wiggins can handle the spotlight
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Make him go right.
You ask. Nick Wiggins laughs. It’s a big brother’s laugh, the laugh of a cat that’s done it 500 times on 500 different driveways. A cat who doesn’t see the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but a 10-year-old in a man’s body, always tagging along, always trying to prove he can play with the big kids.
“Make him go right,” Nick Wiggins, the Wichita State swing man, says of younger sibling Andrew Wiggins, the new center of the Kansas basketball universe.
“He’s right-handed, but he likes going to his left, just like left-handed players like to go to their right. Like (ex-Shockers point guard) Malcolm (Armstead) last year; Malcolm liked to drive right and finish with his left hand.”
Make him go right.
“Make him shoot it,” Nick says.
Make him shoot it.
The Gatorade High School Male Athlete of the year? The dude who dropped 57 points on the Marietta College junior varsity back in February? Make him shoot it?
“He’s just a confident individual,” the elder Wiggins chuckles. “He knows how good he is.
“He’s played against pros already. He’s played FIBA. He’s played AAU. He’s played against Jabari (Parker). He’s played against the best players that are (older than) him, that are ranked that high … for reporters to automatically jump him ahead of guys like that, that speaks loudly.”
And the love keeps on rolling in. The Jayhawk star is in Los Angeles this week, riding the crest of another wave. On Tuesday, he received the aforementioned award from Gatorade, becoming the first Canadian ever to do so. The next night, he was expected to walk the red carpet at the ESPY Awards.
“It’s good to see your little brother be successful,” Nick says. “Especially (as) he’s following in your footsteps. He worked hard. He deserves all the praise. There’s going to be haters out there, he knows that. He’s very mature for his age. He knows how to deal with all that.”
The media. The spotlight. The fans. The burden of being a very big man in a very small community. The weight of an old, storied tradition cast upon shoulders so young. The lure of the pros.
“Naw, he doesn’t speak (about) any of that,” Nick says.
“It’s not hard at all. It’s expected, you know? It’s expected.”
And having a familiar face down the road doesn’t hurt, either. Nick, a 6-foot-6 guard, made his Shockers debut last fall as a junior after a stint at Wabash Valley (Ill.) College. As injuries decimated Gregg Marshall’s starting lineup in December and January, the elder Wiggins was one of several unsung Shox who’d helped to keep Wichita afloat. During one 11-game stretch between December 20 and January 26, the Ontario native averaged 7.3 points a contest; the Shockers went 10-1 in that span, surging to the top of the Missouri Valley standings.
“The dudes that did it last year, they want to taste more of it,” Nick says of the Shockers, who played angry and danced happily all the way to the Final Four, the program’s first since 1965.
“It sunk in probably about a month after we had been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, around April. About that time, we were all just sitting down at my teammate’s house … (and we said), ‘Man, we could’ve won the whole thing.’ How often does somebody get to the Final Four? And we could’ve won the whole thing. So that was a great experience for us.”
Now he’s heading into his senior season with his little brother — and one of his closest confidants — setting up shop just two-and-a-half hours away.
“We’re together all the time,” says Nick, who last hooked up with Andrew over Independence Day weekend. “It was me and my older brother (Mitchell), he used to follow right behind us in the gym. He was always in the gym … since we were in eighth, ninth grade, when I was in there, he would be playing with bigger guys. Once he got to high school, he’d seen it all. He was kind of advanced among kids his age.
“My family was very comfortable with both of us going to school in Kansas. I don’t want to say (me being at Wichita) had a strong effect on him, but I would say it had a little bit of an effect on him.
“Obviously, when my parents fly down to see him play, they don’t want to travel far to see me play. (Kansas coach) Bill Self, him and my mom, they’re really close. They had connected well. He’s just a good coach. I met him before. We just had a cool vibe.”
Comfortable with scheduling a salty Shockers team, well … not so much.
“I think (Self) is threatened by (the idea of) losing,” Nick says.
“Of course, I’d love to play them. I’d love it to be the first game of the season, our first non-conference game. Andrew would like to see that, too. I mean, he would be excited for it.”
And big bro laughs again.
“I don’t know if he’d want to see it — that Wichita State Shocker defense, that isn’t a high school game.”
Who’d guard him?
“I would want to. Cleanthony (Early) could guard him, too. They’re just about the same height.”
Make him go right, Cle. If you can.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org