What Andrew Wiggins means for Kansas
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
It goes without saying that whichever team landed the nation’s top recruit – one whose talent has drawn comparisons to a young LeBron James – would be lauded immediately as a national title contender.
It took until Tuesday afternoon to find out which school that would be: Kansas.
Andrew Wiggins will go from being the American Family Insurance USA TODAY Sports Player of the Year to being go-to guy on the 2013-14 Jayhawks team, the star of an already highly touted incoming freshman class. Wiggins, a 6-8 forward from Huntington (W.Va.) Prep who scored 23.4 points and grabbed 11.2 rebounds per game this season, passed up a chance to be part of what’s being hailed as the greatest recruiting class since the Fab Five, Kentucky’s. Instead of being one star among two handfuls, he’ll be the guy at Kansas.
The Jayhawks will now have the No. 2 recruiting class in the country behind Kentucky, and the class will play early. The Jayhawks are losing all five starters from last year’s Sweet 16 squad – most notably, redshirt freshman standout Ben McLemore, who averaged 15.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. McLemore’s decision to go pro (he’s projected to go as high as the No. 2 pick in June’s NBA draft) plus the departure of seniors Jeff Withey, Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson leaves Kansas with a lot of holes to plug. Sophomores Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor and junior guard Naadir Tharpe are essentially the Jayhawks’ only significant returnees, and the trio combined for just 13.4 points a game last year.
This means coach Bill Self must rely on his freshmen. Surrounding Wiggins with two other five-star recruits in center Joel Embiid and wing Wayne Selden and two top-50 prospects, guard Conner Frankamp and forward Brannen Greene could make the Jayhawks a strong contender for a 10th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title.
ESPN.com recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi calls Wiggins the “exclamation point” of an already exceptional recruiting class.
“The void of McLemore leaving can create a nice presence for Wiggins,” Biancardi said. “They were already a top 10-20 team by most pollsters. With Wiggins, they check … [For more on Analysis: What Andrew Wiggins means for Kansas, click here.]