In baseball, scouts describe complete prospects as “5 tool” players. In Ames, Iowa Monday night, Kansas freshmen sensation Andrew Wiggins took a step closer to being a complete player. The new skill set he displayed — rebounding.
The 14th ranked Jayhawks escaped Ames with a 77-70 win over 7th ranked Iowa State. The difference in this highly anticipated conference match-up was that the Jayhawks out rebounded Iowa State 53 to 36.
Nineteen of those rebounds came from Wiggins. The mark was one short of the KU freshman record (20, Eric Chenowith vs. Texas A&M, 1/14/98). Wiggins grabbed 12 of those boards in 1st half on his way to posting his second double-double of the season.
When asked about his career high rebounding Wiggins replied, “I had a talk with my father, he told me to stay aggressive and that rebounding is the key”. Offensively, Wiggins went about his business scoring 17 points on 7-16 shooting. The reigning Mr. Canada basketball winner was aided by Naadir Thorpe adding 23 points to go along with the player of the game Joel Embiid adding 16 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Did I say that Embiid was the player of the game even though Wiggins posted a ridiculous double-double?
That’s right, I did.
On a night where Wiggins set a ridiculous new career high on the boards and scored 17, it was actually his fellow freshmen that stole the show. Embiid looked like a fully coordinated version of Andrew Bynum and his potential at the moment looks sky high. After being ejected from the previous game, Embiid started out slow with a flagrant foul then proceeded to dominate the remainder of the contest. It’s no mystery why the freshmen center out of Florida has sky rocketed up the mock drafts into the Top 5.
So what are a few things we can take away from this game? The obvious first is that barring a new Bill Simmons approved “Flacid for Embiid” campaign; the Kansas center might be out of reach for good from 7-6. A silver lining can however be taken away from the recent center’s rise, and it’s that Kansas’s roster is so good that it may cause Wiggins to slip and fall to Sixers. Yes I am being optimistic, but the Jayhawks’ roster has three surefire first round picks and when you couple that with Bill Self’s team ball montra, you get the potential for Wiggins to drop a few spots in the Draft.
The 2nd takeaway from Monday’s contest is that Wiggins is gradually evolving as a player, but is remaining a team first guy under coach Self while doing it. Wiggins had a quiet 17 points in that he takes what the defense gives him. He doesn’t push the envelope when there is this kind of talent surrounding him. You might want to see this freshmen show his killer instinct, and maybe it will come, but there is a more encouraging sign to take away from this game. Wiggins could’ve played spectator all night as his teammates Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis’s hoisted shots from all over the court and shot a combined 6-20, but he didn’t. Instead, he displayed constant focus, racking up five offensive rebounds to give the Jayhawks a number of second chance baskets. Focus was in fact the key superlative to #22’s game all night which shows he has maintained a team attitude despite the bright spotlight on his freshmen year.
I think all basketball fans can vouch for Wiggins’ ability to drive the lane at this point, Wiggins can to. Because of this fact, I believe Wiggins is subtly working on some of his other skills during games; rebounding, perimeter shooting and defense. All of those skills are starting to show improvement, and step by step Wiggins is getting closer to earning that “5 tool” label.
Maybe NBA fans should actually be appreciative the All-American went to Kansas instead of a worse team. Instead of exploiting his strengths where they may be needed he is instead refining his lesser ones. This year is an open book for all the highly touted freshmen and by no means should they be judged just yet, more chapters are coming.
Up next for the Jayhawks is a nationally televised contest on the 18th at 3:00 PM in Lawrence, Kansas versus Mr. Smart and Oklahoma State.
Alex Gorge is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @apg3000.
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