KANSAS CITY, Mo. —
Wiggins has taken all of the hype, which included a Sports Illustrated cover comparing him to former Jayhawks stars Danny Manning and Wilt Chamberlain, with a shoulder shrug. In fact, his low-key temperament almost makes it seem as if he’s bored by all the attention.
The truth is that he’s never craved the spotlight. He’s had to learn to accept it, surely, but he’d rather lace up his sneakers and step onto the floor without saying a single word.
“It kind of grew on me over the years to where I’m used to it,” Wiggins said. “I just think of it as a blessing. A lot of people don’t get an opportunity to be showcased like that.”
Smart and Wiggins are in some ways microcosms of their teams.
Smart leads a team that returns its top four scorers and seven of its top eight from a year ago, including sharpshooter Markel Brown and swingman Le’Bryan Nash. That means the Cowboys, who finished a game behind the Jayhawks in last year’s Big 12 race, promise to be one of the nation’s most experienced teams after winning 24 games and reaching the NCAA tournament last season.
Wiggins is the headliner of a freshman class at Kansas that includes five-star prospects Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid, all of whom have the potential to turn pro after this season. Selden is a physical, 6-foot-5 guard whom coach Bill Self said has been in the best player in practice so far, while Embiid is a raw 7-footer from Cameroon who has only been playing for two years.
“Even without Andrew Wiggins, I still thought they were the team to beat,” Ford said. “I knew who they had, who they had returning. They’re still Kansas, no question, and then they added that piece, no question it made it a little more difficult for everybody.”