Nov 13, 2013, 3:02 AM EDT
CHICAGO — The Champions Classic should have been billed as the Freshmen Showcase.
I know, I know, I know. The event itself was about so much more than the eight top ten recruits to take the court at the United Center on Tuesday night. We had No. 1 vs. No. 2. We had No. 4 vs. No. 5. We had Coach Cal and Coach K, Izzo and Self. Sparty, Rock Chalk, Big Blue, the Dukies. It was the single most anticipated night of college hoops that I can remember that was not a part of the NCAA tournament, and if you want to pretend that had everything to do with the teams and the programs involved in the event, than go right ahead.
But you’ll be wrong.
This was the first chance for the general public to truly get a glimpse of all of those stud freshmen, many of whom will be the draft that picks that lowly NBA franchises will pin their futures to. For those freshmen — most notably Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins — this was their introduction into society.
This was their Basketball Cotillion.
When Andrew Wiggins committed to play for Kansas back in May, it was billed as a season-changing event for Bill Self’s Jayhawks. Wiggins had all manner of superlatives being thrown his way. Some called him the best high school prospect since Kevin Durant. Some labeled him the best since Lebron. Some said that he would have been the No. 1 player in the obscenely talented Class of 2007, the one that included the likes of Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo and Eric Gordon.
But over the course of the last month, ever since preseason practices began, there has seemingly been a concerted effort to get the expectations that have been levied upon Wiggins to be reduced.
Part of this is Bill Self’s schtick. He loves to downplay the guys that he has on his roster. He loves saying the players in his program aren’t as good as everyone thinks they are. He did the same thing with Ben McLemore before last season, and McLemore ended up being a pretty talented player, didn’t he? But there’s more to the equation here than the simple fact that Self is trying to keep his guy from heading into his one season in college with impossible expectations. The fact that Wiggins has fallen from lock status as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft has just as much to do with the fact that both Randle and Parker are elite, franchising-changing talents in their own right.
Heading into Tuesday night, heading into their Basketball Cotillion, heading into their debut into society, it was Parker — who went for 22 points in a dominating win over Davidson in Duke’s season-opener — and Randle — who averaged 22.5 points and 14.5 points in his first two college games — that had the momentum, and it certainly didn’t look like that would change by halftime of Tuesday night’s second game. After Randle went off for 27 points and 13 rebounds in the opener (with 23 points and nine boards coming in the second half), Parker lit up Kansas to the tune of 19 points in the first 20 minutes, hitting four straight threes and making one ridiculous, looping drive to the basket.
He was stuck on the bench, having played just nine first half minutes as the result of foul trouble, his six points and three boards anything but impressive.
Things changed in the second half.
Wiggins took over. He scored 16 of his 22 points in the final 20 minutes, including a pair of breakaway dunks and arguably the biggest basket of the game, a step-back jumper from 17 feet on the wing to give the Jayhawks an 85-81 lead.
That’s not the most impressive part about Wiggins’ second half, however. This is:
“People have made a lot about Andrew’s personality because he’s so mild mannered and non demonstrative in his actions. Things come easy to him,” Self said after the game, “but he is competitive. He came to me the whole day, ‘let me guard Jabari. I want to guard Jabari’. I said, ‘That’s not how we practice, you’re not going to do that.’ At the 13 minute mark, I didn’t put him on Jabari, he just went to guard him. And he got a piece of his shot on that possessions. He is competitive and he wanted the challenge.”
Parker struggled in the second half, finishing with just eight points. Wiggins played a major role in shutting him down. You don’t think people noticed?
Or how about this: Wiggins left the United Center with the one thing that both Parker and Randle wanted: a win.
It’s too early to know what is going to happen this June. But on this day in November, it was Wiggins whose debut was successful.
Jul 27, 2014, 9:39 PM EDT
Despite not being included among the five official visits, Indiana and UNLV remain options for Zimmerman.
Jul 27, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT
Nearly three months after breaking a backboard during a pickup game, the rising junior took out another one this weekend.
Jul 27, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Chase Jeter is down to Arizona, Duke, UCLA and UNLV.
Jul 27, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT
Ray Smith tore his ACL earlier this month.
Jul 27, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT
Ed O’Bannon’s lead attorney didn’t even know who he was when he first met him.
Jul 27, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
It’s been a summer of viral dunks for the 6-foot-2 recruit
Las Vegas Saturday Recap: Bennie Boatwright, Justin Simon lead Dream Vision into adidas Super 64 semis
Jul 27, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT
Also some notes on junior college guard Andre Spight and 2015 guard Justin Foreman.
Jul 27, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Skal Labissiere may want to go to Europe. That does not mean Europe wants him.
AAU Nationals Saturday Recap: Raymond Spalding has upside, Trent Forrest and Gary Trent, Jr. perform at a high level
Jul 27, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
AAU Nationals and the Super Showcase continued on Saturday in Louisville.
Jul 26, 2014, 6:34 PM EDT
North Carolina is the latest school making the positive step of looking to help its former athletes obtain their college degrees.
Jul 26, 2014, 4:54 PM EDT
Meeks has lost nearly 50 pounds.
Jul 26, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
With Saint Louis losing five experienced seniors, the incoming freshman class could be expected to contribute immediately this season.
Jul 26, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT
Two top five players in the Class of 2016 were sent home.
Jul 26, 2014, 12:29 PM EDT
Brown also mentioned plans of taking an unofficial visit to UCLA following adidas Nations.
Jul 26, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
USA Basketball has a lot of talent in the building this week for the U17 World Championship camp.
AAU Nationals Friday Recap: Event moves to Louisville, Bruce Brown plays well, Noah Dickerson updates recruitment
Jul 26, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
AAU Nationals and Super Showcase continued on Friday in Louisville.
Jul 25, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Florida commit KeVaughn Allen had a great week at Peach Jam.
Jul 25, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Former Delaware guard Jarvis Threatt is turning pro after being dismissed from the program in June.
Jul 25, 2014, 4:47 PM EDT
Didn’t believe Niang when he stated that he’d reshaped his body? Here’s visual evidence that he did.
Jul 25, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
New York City guard Rawle Alkins is one player to monitor in the Class of 2016.
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