Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins picks Kansas, makes Jayhawks a title contender


Remember all that talk about how this could end up being the year that Kansas ends their streak of winning at least a share of nine straight Big 12 regular season title?

Remember how we all thought that Marcus Smart and Le’Bryan Nash — and maybe Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson — returning to school for another season would be the biggest news of the offseason in the Big 12?

Remember when Oklahoma State was the best team in the conference?

That all changed on Tuesday afternoon when Andrew Wiggins, the Canadian-born forward out of Huntington Prep (WV) and the top high school recruit in the country, announced that he would be spending his one year of college basketball playing for Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks.

Of the four teams involved in the final pursuit of a prospect many believe to be on par with Kevin Durant and LeBron James, Kansas probably had the most to gain by bringing in the freakishly athletic, 6-foot-7 wing. Wiggins is a pure-bred scorer, a kid whose athleticism borders on genetic mutation — that’s what happens when your father was a first round pick in the NBA and your mother won silver medals as a sprinter in the Olympics — that has the handle and shooting ability to be so much more than just a dunker. He’s the go-to guy that Self has desperately needed since Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor headed off to the NBA after the 2012 national title game.

Because the Jayhawks do have talent on their roster, it’s just young talent.

Joel Embiid may be the best center in the Class of 2013. He’ll team up in the front court with Perry Ellis, a scoring machine when he was in high school that finally gained some confidence by the end of the season. Self will have a myriad of perimeter weapons at his disposal as well– five-star freshman Wayne Selden, Andrew White, Brannen Greene and the three-headed attack at the point of Naadir Tharpe, Connor Frankamp and Frank Mason.

The problem is that as good as all of those kids are going to be down the road, they are all young and/or inexperienced right now. Tharpe is going to be next year’s ‘veteran leader’, and he was so shaky at the point last season that Self was forced to play Elijah Johnson there even when Johnson was playing with the self-confidence of a middle school tuba player hitting on Blake Lively. Ellis was a touted recruit coming out of high school, but he played behind a guy that transferred in from Loyola Marymount. Combined, those two played fewer minutes per game last season than Travis Releford.

That’s the kind of experience that Self was going to be forced to deal with in 2013-2014.

But with Wiggins on the roster, those young guys can simply embrace being role players. They won’t have to shoulder too much responsibility, because Wiggins will be the guy that a) Self builds his offense around and b) defenses focus on stopping. It will be a lot easier for someone like Ellis or Selden or Embiid to have an impact offensively when they are constantly going up against a defense shaded towards Wiggins.

The beauty of it is that this is also a good thing for Kansas basketball in the future. Wiggins is gone after this season, but with a year of development at the collegiate level, who’s to say that someone like Embiid or Selden can’t turn into an all-american caliber player as a sophomore? Self is as good at developing talent as any coach in the country, and with Wiggins in the fold, he can do just that with his youngsters without having to worry about putting too much on their plate too early in their career.

Because that streak is a burden.

No one wants to be a part of the Kansas team that couldn’t win the Big 12 regular season title.

With Wiggins on the roster, the burden of that pressure lands on his shoulders.

And he’s good enough to handle it.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two¬†appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?