NBA Draft Series: Andrew Wiggins - Ender’s Game

In a special Downtown series, Tom Hersz profiles each of the top projected lottery picks joining Australia’s Dante Exum in the NBA Draft on June 27 (Australian time).  The series continues today with an in-depth look at Andrew Wiggins from Kansas University.“Young Ender Wiggin is recruited by the International Military to lead the fight against the Formics, a genocidal alien race which nearly annihilated the human race in a previous invasion.” ~ Synopsis on of Ender’s Game

“Young Andrew Wiggins is drafted into the NBA to become the next crowned superstar wing player, carrying the torch from LeBron James and Kevin Durant and putting Canadian Basketball at the forefront of Global Hoops.” ~ Synopsis of expectations of Andrew Wiggins’ pro career

That’s right folks, if you haven’t heard of Andrew Wiggins over the past two years, it’s time to come crawling out from underneath that rock. ‘Ender’, which is fast becoming the nickname of choice for the young Canadian, carries the burden of hyped expectations that have really not been seen since LeBron James was drafted by Cleveland back in 2003.

Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin, the fictional character, is a young man tasked with the expectation of saving the human race. Andrew Wiggins, the basketball player, is a young man with the expectation of saving whichever NBA franchise calls his name on June 27 (Australian time).

Is it fair to have that level of expectation at such a young age? Can too much pressure stop a talented player from reaching his true potential? Is Wiggins even that good to begin with?

Let’s explore…

Andrew Wiggins is the son of former NBA pro Mitchell Wiggins who played for 3 different teams over 6 seasons. His mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, won two silver medals in track and field for the Canadian Olympic team in 1984. He is extremely gifted athletically – possessing a 44-inch vertical that has NBA scouts salivating.

Canadian Senior Men’s Coach Leo Rautins has seen Wiggins’ talent for a while now but recognises he is far from a complete player yet.

“He’s got a great body, No. 1. Very gifted athletically and he’s got a nice feel for the game instinctively,” Rautins said. “I still say he’s raw. He’s not even scratching the surface yet. But instinctively he does a lot of things very well.”

Rautins continued: “When Vince Carter first started with the Raptors, John Saunders (broadcast partner) and I would watch him and at least once a game one of us would ask the other: ‘He didn’t just do that, did he?’ Andrew is like that. He’ll do things and you find yourself saying, ‘Are you serious? Did he do that?’”

Rautins knows Wiggins is supremely talented, but also knows that he is surrounded by people looking out for his best interests.

“We know his dad isn’t going to let him get comfortable,” Rautins said. “A lot of kids don’t have that support system with somebody in their corner that knows the game, knows how it works.”

Andrew has two older brothers, Mitchell Jr (Southeastern University) and Nick (Wichita State University) who are both good ballers. The family battles on the local playground courts growing up were intense.

Sometimes Mitchell Sr would step on the floor and remind his boys who was boss.

“He’s still undefeated against us, or at least he thinks he is,” Mitch Jr told ESPN earlier this year.

Still, Andrew has been hyped since he was about 13 years old and playing in Middle School in Ontario. He was 6’6” and 195 lbs then and already seemed like a man among boys.

Today, Wiggins stands at 6’8” but is still only 200 lbs. If there is a knock on him, it’s his thin frame. It has limited his effectiveness in finishing at the rim and allows him to get knocked off his spot a little too easily when trying to box out for defensive boards.

Others question his assertiveness offensively, saying he needs to venture out of his comfort zone more often and that he may struggle to become the primary scoring option at the next level.

Does he have the mental focus to maximise his god given talent?

“He’s kind of a laid-back kid but he’s got that fire,” Rautins said. “He’ll go in and he doesn’t care if there is a big guy in the way. He’s going to dunk on him. He has a real good competitive side.”

Still, the media try to find fault in his game. They try to knock him down a few pegs using an old method that runs rampant in Australian culture – the ‘Tall-Poppy Syndrome’.

In an article for USA Today published in March, national college hoops reporter Eric Prisbell didn’t pull any punches.

“He failed to be the front-runner for national player of the year honours,” Prisbell wrote. “He failed to average 20 points, much less lead the nation in scoring. And he may not even be the most coveted NBA prospect on his team, much less in June’s NBA draft.”

In his college debut, Wiggins finished with 16 points which led to the USA Today headline, “Andrew Wiggins was solid in his debut, but hardly LeBron James.”

Throughout the season he’s been called “underwhelming” and labelled a “disappointment”, but he still put together a fantastic freshman season and, just quietly, only turned 19 in late February.

Wiggins averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1 block, 1.2 steals and 1.2 3-pointers at Kansas this season and Coach Bill Self labelled him a future “multiple time all-star” and said that along with Joel Embiid, “these two are by far the best prospects that I’ve ever been around.”

Self acknowledged that Wiggins may not be ready to dominate the NBA the way LeBron James did as a rookie but he will get there.“The thing about Andrew is that he should have been a high school senior this year,” Self said. “There’s no way he’s Lebron or Kobe, but he’s the first Andrew. He can do some things better than those guys could. There are certain areas that he can’t do as well as they did. He just turned 19 and he is competitive.”

“He needs to get some of that alpha dog to him, there’s no question about that but that will come,” Self added. “We kind of coach violence and that stuff here, but he averaged 17 points per game for us, he’s scored 41 in a game, 18 rebounds in a game, six blocked shots in a game. There’s a lot he can do, but he just needs to put it all together.”

“He’s gonna make his biggest jump now,” Self said. “He’s been around what real competition is like, he’s hungry, thirsty. I’m real excited for him. His ceiling is ridiculously high.”

It is that ceiling that had Wiggins atop most NBA Scouts’ and Executives’ draft boards for much of the past year, and with his Jayhawks teammate Joel Embiid suffering a stress facture in his right foot during recent workouts, it is that ceiling that will likely have Adam Silver calling his name first on draft day.

While many people believe Jabari Parker is more NBA ready than Wiggins, most also believe Wiggins will ultimately be the better player.

Will he become a LeBron James level talent and carry the torch some day? It’s entirely possible.

Will he save whichever franchise drafts him? Very likely.

Can he save the human race from an alien invasion? Maybe not.

But it is going to be Ender’s game; so grab some popcorn, put on your 3D glasses and enjoy the show.


For more from our 2014 NBA Draft Series:

Joel EmbiidJo-Jo is Coming

Marcus Smart A Smart Move?

Jabari ParkerThe Other Guy

Doug McDermottAn Offensive Michelangelo

Dario ŠarićThe Dario Scenario

Noah VonlehNoah’s Arc

Aaron GordonAir Gordon

Julius Randle – Putting His Best Foot Forward

Mock Draft 1.0 (21st May)

Mock Draft 2.0 (10th June)

Mock Draft 3.0 (23rd June)


Follow me on twitter @tomhersz

Follow Downtown @downtownball

Article written by

When you’re introduced to the NBA as a 6 year old in 1984, staying up late to watch Bird, Magic and Dr. J, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the game. I became consumed with the Association, and as my own game was developing, I tried to emulate as much as I could at an early age and learn how to play “the right way”. I have memories as a teenager of being glued to Saturday Basketball on TV and spending every spare cent I had on basketball cards and replica jerseys and so began my obsession with NBA knowledge and stats. I played my first season of Fantasy Hoops in 2002, as my serious playing days were slowing down. I now play in 5 or 6 leagues every year. To say I’m obsessed with Fantasy Hoops would be an understatement. To say I love nothing more than sharing my opinion on a player’s value would be entirely accurate, and I guess, the reason why I’m here. Follow me on twitter: @tomhersz @downtownball

Please comment with your real name using good manners.

Leave a Reply