KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As expected, the reporters who gathered at Big 12 Media Day at the Sprint Center on Tuesday were focused on Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins -- the unanimous No. 1 recruit in the 2013 class.
Bill Self said the event was a good opportunity for Wiggins to become more accustomed to the cameras and voice recorders that will be thrust in front of him throughout the season.
But he also tried to dismiss some of the buzz that has come from the early comparisons to NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
“Well, he hasn't asked for any of it,” Self said. “If you talk to him, he's humble and a low‑key guy that deflects attention as much as anybody I've been around. But when you hear those things, it's not fair. … He’s just Andrew.”
That’s not entirely true.
Wiggins is the top recruit in college basketball since Durant. So it’s natural to point to a current NBA star he resembles. But Wiggins echoed his coach’s sentiment about the comparisons.
“I’ve got a long way to go before I can be compared to LeBron and Durant,” Wiggins said. “Those are the best players in the world right now and I’m still in college. So I think it’s really unfair to compare me to someone of that caliber. Hopefully one day I can be compared to them, but I think I still have a long way to go before I can be.”
Self has both recognized the hype and tempered expectations throughout the offseason. He used his platform in Kansas City for a similar purpose at the league’s media day.
And it makes sense.
Andrew Wiggins seems like a guy who’d rather be doing anything other than talking about Andrew Wiggins. The Toronto native smiled when asked about Canadian rapper Drake. But he was reserved during the bulk of the one-on-one session with reporters. His subdued demeanor belies that of other players who’ve entered the scene with similar hype.
The attention will continue to grow, though.
This is something that Wiggins will have to endure throughout the year and, possibly, the rest of his career.
Scott Drew might have a gem in freshman Ish Wainright, who is built like a linebacker. Drew told me that Baylor’s football staff has “noticed” the 6-6 forward. But he’s not going anywhere. The early buzz is Wainright could be one of the best players on this roster by the end of the season.
Curtis Shaw, Big 12 coordinator of officials, said he expects the game to improve once new rules on handchecking and block-charge calls are implemented this season. “I think it's a great change for college basketball,” he said. “Maybe a little growing pains early, but it's going to help the game.” Shaw showed clips of plays -- perimeter contact and offensive fouls in the lane -- that would have been officiated differently had they occurred in 2013-14. It’s difficult to see how this is going to lead -- initially, at least -- to anything but sloppy basketball. How can athletes play solid defense this season?
Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford is obviously excited about Marcus Smart’s return. But he also pointed to some of Oklahoma State’s other athletes who could help the Pokes contend for the Big 12 title. “At this point in time, practice has been one of our strengths, shooting the basketball,” he said. “Marcus is shooting the ball really well. Markel Brown is shooting the ball really well. Brian Williams. We have some freshmen that have come in and their strengths are shooting the ball, between Stevie Clark and Jeffrey Carroll, these are some really knock‑down shooters on our basketball team. Phil Forte is probably one of the best shooters in America.”
Smart is the player most have focused on. But Oklahoma State has a diverse crew with weapons all over the floor.