In the two-plus years since Andrew Wiggins burst on the recruiting scene -- particularly since he reclassified to the class of 2013, and immediately became its most desirable prospect last fall -- almost all of what we've heard about the kid has been positive. Different. Humble. Friendly. Unimpressed by most. Keeps a tight circle. Doesn't luxuriate in the attention of being a star. Doesn't much care for the recruiting process.
Things kept up this way for almost all of Wiggins' prep career. But college basketball fans are an impatient, emotional sort. When Wiggins' decision started to drag out, many turned. Many were just introduced, and their first impression wasn't colored by the word on the grassroots street. To these folks -- and by "these folks" I mean the din you hear when you put your ear to the Internet floor -- the notion that Wiggins wasn't a fan of recruiting attention was clearly and obviously wrong, because who waits until the last possible opportunity to announce their college choice if they don't want attention? Forget the fact that Wiggins didn't court attention to leave crumb trails or make his announcement in front of a swath of national reporters in a pep rally, but instead held a small ceremony with mostly friends and family in his high school gym. Clearly the kid was addicted to attention -- no different than every other would-be one-year college basketball star.
I don't think that's at all true. I don't know, because I don't know Andrew Wiggins, but I doubt it. What I do know is that far more often than not, Wiggins has seemed more mature than the majority of adults in the grassroots basketball world, both in his ability to keep his process to himself (and avoid turning it into some mini-LeBron James spectacle) and the relatively quiet way that decision was eventually announced.
And then there's this. On Sunday, Wiggins wrote an open editorial farewell letter in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch thanking ... well, pretty much everyone he ever came in contact with in Huntington, W. Va.:
I just wanted to thank Huntington for your support for me and my Huntington Prep teammates and coaches these past two years. Without the community, none of what has been accomplished would have been attainable. I hope that when you hear or read my name, you are proud to say I played my high school days here in Huntington. Because I am proud to say I played here.
[...] One of the best things about my experience here is St. Joseph Central Catholic H.S. where we all attend. There are a lot of good people in that building from the principal to the teachers to the janitor; I will never forget all the positive influences they have been in my development as a young man. My peers at St. Joe have also been supportive of me and have always treated me as one of their own. I am not different, just a kid, and at St. Joe I could be. Thank you.
[...] I am from Canada and I am going to Kansas to play college basketball. I will hopefully be drafted to a city that I enjoy. But I will always have a place for Huntington in my heart and memories. I will not forget all the sacrifices they made for me and my teammates. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
That's just a few portions of the letter; the whole thing is full of specific thank yous to teachers, coaches, trainers, support staff, Huntington board members (who serve as host families at the boarding academy), and various friends made over the course of a high school career.
It's honestly touching stuff. As the son of lifelong educators, let me assure you there is nothing that makes educators suffer sudden onset allergies more than a student thanking them on their way out the door. So many 18-year-olds simply breeze out into the world as if they've survived something horrible, as if the rest of their life is going to be easy, as if they'll never need guidance or advice again. They're not grateful, because they don't realize what they've been given. Because they're teenagers, and teenagers are selfish.
That Wiggins -- who really is breezing off to a charmed life of basketball-borne fame and riches -- stopped to thank the folks that have shaped his life the past few years is a small but incredibly impressive thing. As far as I can tell, Wiggins isn't just "not like other stars." He's not like most teenagers, full stop.