Wiggins shines in debut for Kansas, but fails to impress everybody at Pitt State

BY foxsports • October 29, 2013

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- They tried to open up the back door
for him, so you-know-who could do the you-know-what and bring the
bloody house down, nice and early.

But when Andrew
Wiggins got the ball on the far right wing for the first time in a
real-life college game (well, OK, it was an exhibition) against a
real-life college opponent (well, OK, Pittsburg State), he shot-faked
his defender back with a half-step and promptly ... took another
half-step.

History will call it a travel. But, hey,
mighty oaks from little acorns grow. Right?

"I don't
know," Pitt State forward Cody Gafford told FOXSportsKansasCity.com when
asked about Wiggins, who recorded 16 points and six boards his
collegiate debut for the University of
Kansas.

"Really, I mean, I was expecting a lot more
out of him."

Maple Jordan, maybe.


But the second coming of Michael Jordan? Well
...

"But you know, when Kansas plays basketball, the
whole team gets in the game," Gafford said of the Jayhawks, who stormed
to a 97-57 victory Tuesday night in their preseason debut. "They don't
just focus on one player."

The media did, of course.
The crowd did, too, and it seemed to wear on the Canadian teen's face in
the early going. The No. 1 prep recruit in the country and the
presumptive top pick in next spring's NBA Draft wound up stringing
together a solid, if unspectacular, final stat line: 25 minutes,
5-for-13 from the floor, 0-for-3 on treys, 16 points, six rebounds, two
blocks and three camera crews from his native country, chronicling his
every move.

"I'm sure he had butterflies," Gorillas
forward Trevor Gregory observed. "If I was in his position, knowing that
everybody was expecting that much out of me, I would be so
nervous."

Wiggins was, and it showed. His first
field-goal attempt was a 3-point try at the top of the arc. It landed
right of the rim. Six minutes in, Wiggins had more turnovers (one) than
field goals (none). The 6-foot-8 Canuck finally got on the board with
9:36 left in the first half, a short lay-in along the left side of the
lane.

That was the first bucket. The first
posterizing moment -- which, let's be honest, is what most of the 16,300
at Allen Fieldhouse had turned up for -- was at the 6:56 mark. KU
forward Jamari Traylor dropped back to pass from well beyond the arc and
lobbed it in the general area code of the paint.

A
waiting Wiggins set himself near Gregory and went up ... and up ... and
up ...

"I mean, I kind of thought it was a jump
shot," Gregory, a 6-7 freshman who prepped at Lee's Summit West, would
say later. "So I thought it was going to be an air
ball."

... and up ... and up
...

"And then I realized it was a lob for Andrew
Wiggins and then, you know."

... and then,
kablooey.


"I didn't
even see him, honestly," Gregory said of Wiggins' alley-oop slam,
lowering his head as he recalled the carnage above. "(I) just was like
falling down afterwards and I was like, 'Oh.'"

The
roof came down, the Jayhawks went up 33-22, and the party was
on.

"We have a lot to learn, and we were nervous,"
coach Bill Self said. "Even Wiggins and (center) Tarik (Black) were
nervous, because they want to do good. We have some things we certainly
have to improve on, but I do think that there were some positives out
there."

More than a few, actually. Black, a 6-foot-9
fifth-year senior transfer from Memphis, is an absolute load in the
blocks (seven points, 11 boards), a bruiser in the style of NBA star
Zach Randolph. Freshman swing man Brannen Greene (10 points) accounted
for three of KU's six treys on the night, while classmate Joel Embiid
showed all the raw skill (nine points and two blocks in 16 minutes) and
rough edges (four turnovers, three fouls) that had been expected right
out of the chute.

"It's an impressive level of
talent," Pitt State coach Kevin Muff said. "And they'll continue to get
better and better."

Wiggins will, too, you figure,
once the novelty wears off and the games themselves start to take center
stage.

"He's thinking too much," Self noted, "which
takes way from his explosiveness ... to me, you look, he's got 16 points
and he really didn't play that much, really didn't make his
shots."

If there is a lingering concern, it's the
fact the Gorillas underscored the initial scouting report on Wiggins,
one that's sure to be followed: The best way to defend the KU stalwart
is to close off the lane and make him beat you with his jump shot --
something opponents would never have done with, say, ex-Jayhawk Ben
McLemore a year ago.



"We knew that's what he liked to
do -- spin off and try to get to the bucket every time," Gafford said.
"So (we) really tried to play that. We knew he could shoot, but not the
best."

And that
alley-oop?


"I mean, it was exciting to
see," Gafford said. Then he smiled. "But I wasn't rooting for
it."

You can follow Sean Keeler on
Twitter @seankeeler or email him at
seanmkeeler@gmail.com.



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