Self keeping Wiggins focused

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
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While the rest of the basketball world debates whether Andrew Wiggins will be the top pick in the 2014 NBA draft, his college coach is waiting for him to become the best player on his team.

"He’s been marginal," Kansas coach Bill Self said last week. "Compared to what people are saying, I think he’ll have some ups and downs."

[+] EnlargeAndrew Wiggins
Sam Forencich/Getty ImagesAndrew Wiggins needs to show more consistency, according to coach Bill Self.
That’s not meant to be a jab at Wiggins. Self is quick to add that he has never seen anyone with as much promise and explosiveness as Wiggins. "We’ve never had anybody who can do what he can do," he said.

But Self is also about reality, not hyperbole, and reality is on the court at Allen Fieldhouse, not on Twitter.

And the reality is Wiggins might be a basketball prodigy whose legend already has grown to almost urban myth, and whose most recent game was against high school kids.

Wiggins’ jump-out-of-the-gym talent is eye-popping, but to succeed as a collegiate player he has to learn to be more than just the occasional exclamation point.

That’s what Self is waiting on.

"You’d watch him play 10 minutes in a game and leave out of there going, 'Wow,' " Self said. "He makes plays that truly leave you in awe. But he doesn’t know yet how to play hard consistently. He can definitely do that. He just has to learn how."

Wiggins isn’t unusual. In fact, in these fast-twitch times, he’s the norm, merely the latest in a succession of guys tagged "It" for the season -- following in the oversized footsteps of Nerlens Noel, Anthony Davis, John Wall, Harrison Barnes, Derrick Rose, Greg Oden, Michael Beasley, Kevin Durant, all the way back to a guy named Manning at Kansas.

They are the next LeBron, the next sure thing, their team’s savior and the game’s future. Most -- though not all -- have handled the burden extraordinarily well and even more surprisingly, most -- though not all -- have lived up to the hype, but it’s a head-swimming ascension for even the coolest customer.

By all accounts, Wiggins is humble, despite all of the attention, a "sweet kid," according to Self.

Just a few months ago, Wiggins was trying to find the right cummerbund for the prom.

Now he’s posing for GQ.

It puts college coaches in a quandary. In these hyperattentive times, they have to find the proper balance, to protect their players from the insanity without coddling them on the court.

"It’s just been harder, faster, tougher so far, but at some point I have get inside his noggin," Self said. "He’s been humbled already and that’s a good thing. I just hope the expectations don’t weigh him down too much."

It’s up to Self to make sure they don’t, and it's up to the coach to tell it like it is. The rest of the world can debate whether Andrew Wiggins is the future top pick; it’s up to Self to be a realist.

Dana O'Neil | email

College Basketball

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