Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

KU's Wiggins Embraces Spotlight; Jayhawks Freshman Phenom Is Ready for His First and Likely Last NCAA Tourney

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

KU's Wiggins Embraces Spotlight; Jayhawks Freshman Phenom Is Ready for His First and Likely Last NCAA Tourney

Article excerpt

Before he ever stepped on the court for a regular-season college game, basketball prodigy Andrew Wiggins appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated alongside images of former Kansas Jayhawk greats Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning.

Kansas coach Bill Self thought it was unfair to compare the freshman to the most iconic players in the program's storied history.

He also thought it was pretty cool.

"The reason I thought it was cool was I thought it was a great pic," Self said Thursday at Scottrade Center, where his No. 2- seeded Jayhawks will play 15 seed Eastern Kentucky in today's 3:10 p.m. second-round NCAA Tournament game.

Self wasn't wild about the hype building around his celebrated freshman, but he didn't shield Wiggins from the spotlight either. Self said SI never consulted him about the cover concept, but any coach with 531 victories, 14 conference championships, two Final Fours and a national championship could put the kibosh on a photo shoot if he so pleased.

Self did not.

Knowing the Jayhawks faced a rugged non-conference schedule loaded with nationally-ranked teams, Self appreciated the spotlight that shined on his phenom.

"I thought it would help prepare him for the pressures that's going to be before him, because if he didn't get hit between the eyes early on, he wouldn't have been prepared over the course of the season," Self said. "And you stop and think about it: This guy was going into the Duke game and the games after that, everybody is wanting to give him their very best shot."

As Wiggins' one-year stopover in college comes to a close he's widely considered a top-three pick in this summer's NBA draft Self believes the Big 12 freshman of the year is ready for his close-up. Actually, it started months ago as Kansas embarked on the nation's most grueling schedule. When Kansas tips off against Eastern Kentucky, Wiggins already will have logged more than 1,000 minutes of court time against a lineup of opponents that's included Florida, Duke, Villanova and all the conference peers that made the Big 12 the nation's best conference this year.

"It's getting closer to crunch time and I'm trying to do the best I can do for my team," said Wiggins, who leads Kansas (24-9) and all Big 12 freshmen with 17. …

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