On the afternoon of May 14, Wayne Selden found himself watching ESPN like many other college basketball fans, anxious to learn the fate of top prospect Andrew Wiggins.
Selden, the rugged, 6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound, five-star recruit from the Tilton School (N.H.), who signed with Kansas last October, was sitting with friends in one of the prep school’s dormitory common rooms, simultaneously monitoring his Twitter account.
“Somebody tweeted at me as soon as it happened,” said the Roxbury native in a phone conversation earlier this week. “When (Wiggins) decided on Kansas, I was happy.
“But I was definitely surprised. We all were when it happened.”
Phone conversations ensued.
“We’ve talked a couple times,” Selden said of his communication with Wiggins since May 14. “We’re both excited to get down there on campus and start working out together, and have classes. We’re just excited to come together for the opportunity.”
Selden also reached out to the coaching staff, which was equally thrilled by the development.
Almost immediately, however, conversation surrounding next season’s Kansas team shifted from being a borderline preseason top 20 team to a top five power expected to reach the Final Four.
“I feel like we just have to come together as a team,” Selden said. “We don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves because everyone else (will be). I feel like if we come together as a team and work hard enough, we can live up to expectations.”
With a starting five that’s expected to include the Jayhawks' top three incoming freshmen in Selden, Wiggins, and center Joel Embiid –- along with junior point guard Naadir Tharpe and sophomore forward Perry Ellis -– Kansas now boast this year’s number two recruiting class behind Kentucky.
As for Wiggins and Selden, the two became friendly competing at various camps and showcases on the recruiting circuit the past few years. They also had the opportunity to team up twice in the past two months. In early April, they hung out – on and off the court – at the McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago. A week later, they reconnected in Brooklyn at the Jordan Brand Classic.
At both venues, Selden saw firsthand the media attention Wiggins attracted over his looming decision.
“He had a lot of people pulling him in different ways,” Selden said. “I made a couple of hints every now and again, but I never put any pressure on him to make a decision.”
In Chicago, Wiggins described Selden as "a joy to play with. He's unselfish and likes to pass, but score at the same time. He's a good player. He likes to win; he's a competitor.” But Wiggins’ comments never hinted that he viewed Selden as a potential college teammate.
For at least a year, however, with Wiggins, the 6-foot-7-inch, 205-pound small forward from Ontario, Canada, expected to leap to the NBA before his sophomore campaign, the two will team as Jayhawks.
“I’m used to playing alongside great players (like Nerlens Noel, Georges Niang and Dominique Bull) being at Tilton these past three years,” said Selden when asked what it will mean to play with Wiggins. “It always helps to have a lot of great players around you. His athleticism, ability to score the ball and ability to dribble will all help me out.
“It (also) means we’re going to have a better team and we’re going to have more weapons.”
This weekend Selden will graduate from Tilton. He’s busy spending the week engaged in a variety of senior activities, including a white water rafting trip. But by May 31, he’ll be on the Kansas campus taking classes, working on his game and adjusting to life as a college athlete.
“I was excited,” Selden said of his pre- and post- decision emotions. “But now it’s through the roof. It was already pretty high, (but) it’s shot through the roof. I am just ready to get down there, get into classes and start working.”