Andrew Wiggins got next. Not next as in up and coming or keep an eye out for him; next as in, buckle up because he’s coming at you. Full throttle.
The consensus No. 1-ranked high school basketball player in the nation, Wiggins is overwhelmingly considered the best prep prospect to come along since LeBron James. Due to his explosive athletic ability and mind-blowing highlights, which feature a musicality of the rock like Beethoven and an aerial artistry more sublime than Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, all eyes are on the 6-foot-8, 215-pound Canadian phenom. NBA teams are already pulling stunts in order to set themselves up for the chance to draft Wiggins in 2014.
But for now, the former Huntington St. Joseph’s Prep who prompted the hashtag #TankForWiggins is on an award tour. His latest, the coveted 2013 Gatorade Athlete of the Year trophy, which he won for beastin’ his way to 23.4 ppg, 11.2 rpg and 2.4 steals per contest while still managing to hit the books for a 3.31 GPA, came on the eve of the ESPYS. TSL caught up with the Kansas-bound stud at the swank W Hotel in Hollywood to talk about winning the award, Rock Chalk Jayhawk nation and the NBA.
TSL: How does it feel to get the award for best high school athlete in the country?
AW: It means a lot to me. I don’t think it has sank in yet that I’m in a category with some of the best basketball players, people like LeBron James and Dwight Howard. It motivates me because of how far they’ve gotten in their careers and I want to be one of the best just like them.
TSL: You’re the first Canadian to win this award. What does that mean to you?
AW: Knowing that I’m the first Canadian to win this award is really big for my country. Canada’s on the rise right now. A lot of people are surprised by what we can do. When Anthony Bennett went No. 1 in the draft, it was one of the biggest things in history for Canada.
TSL: Your coach Bill Self said “From a raw, athletic-ability standpoint, he can do some things that I’ve never had a player be able to do physically.” What goes through your mind when you hear that?
AW: Bill Self is a great coach. All the players love him. What he said is going to make me better. It’s going to make me want to work harder to make sure I don’t let him down.
TSL: What kind of season do you hope to have under Bill Self?
AW: I’m going to try to win. I’m going to bond with my teammates and concentrate on winning. I want to win a national championship.
TSL: So what does Andrew Wiggins do for fun off the court?
AW: I like to hang with friends, be a kid and play video games like Call of Duty.
TSL: You’re the first real social media basketball star. What does that mean to you and does it get to be unbearable at times?
AW: I just try to take it one day at a time, I never try to get overwhelmed by it. I have a great support around me ready to help: my parents, coach and teammates always kept me in line. And I’m good at avoiding things that I don’t want to do. If I don’t want to do a lot of media, I’ll find a way to get around it (laughs).
TSL: Experts already have you pegged for the No. 1 draft pick in 2014 and there’s a lot of talk about teams “Tanking for Wiggins.” How much pressure is that on you?
AW: I think it would put a lot of pressure on anybody, but at the same time I don’t really pay attention to expectations from other people. I’m just trying to live life so I’m not really worried about after college right now. I’m trying to win, I’m trying to win with my teammates and be successful in college, so I’m not trying to worry about all that.
TSL: Some people are comparing you to LeBron James. Fair comparison?
AW: I really don’t like comparing myself to anyone in the NBA. I just want to prove myself to be one of the best and I have a lot to work on and get better before I can be compared to one of these guys.
TSL: Did you pattern your game by watching players like LeBron?
AW: He’s actually always been my favorite player. I know we’re two different players, but to me, he’s the most exciting player ever. Jordan was, too, but growing up I also watched Vince Carter in Toronto, T-Mac, all those guys.
TSL: Who are the players you hope to play against once you reach the League?
AW: LeBron James, KD (Kevin Durant), and Kobe if he’s still playing. I want to face the best.
TSL: Everyone assumes you’re a one and done player. Are you?
AW: If God blesses me with the opportunity, and I’m ready to go to the next level after next year, I will.