Andrew Wiggins has been scrutinized and heaped with pressure like no Canadian basketball player ever before him.
Even Steve Nash, while he carried the burden himself, didn’t face the same pressure because expectations for this country’s basketball talent were much lower.
“Young kid, a world of talent, one of the most talented players in the league but the expectations were so unfair on the young man,” said Toronto head coach Dwane Casey.
“Everyone expected him to be like today’s LeBron or yesterday’s Kobe or whatever. And it’s totally unfair to Andrew to put those types of expectations on him because in time he has the opportunity to be that type of player but today he’s a very, very talented player but he’s nowhere on the level of those guys today just because of Father Time. Just give the kid a few more years.”
Critics point to Wiggins’ comfortable demeanour and say that he coasts on athletic ability and won’t challenge himself, that the game comes too easily to him. He makes it look easy. But it’s not so according to those who know him best.
“I love him for all the criticism he takes for his demeanour,” said Sam Mitchell, former Raptors coach and Wiggins’ coach the past two seasons in Minnesota. “If you watch this young man every year he’s gotten better. There’s not a guy in this league I’d rather have going to the basket with the ball in his hands.”
Wiggins is currently averaging 22 points per game in about 36 minutes, picking his spots and being more selective with his shots. He’s also worked hard at his distance shooting this past offseason and improved his three point shot from just over 30% to just under 40%.
“I feel confident in myself,” said Wiggins post-game. “I put in the work in the offseason to put myself in the best position possible.”
— Nick Wiggins (@Wiggys__WORLD) August 3, 2016
He’s still just a kid from the suburbs of Toronto, where he developed into the best prospect in all of basketball. But he’s always believed in himself and when the Timberwolves were tabbed as a likely breakout team with playoff aspirations this season Wiggins didn’t back down.
Before the season while speaking with Sports Illustrated he said: “I think last year we could’ve beat any team on any given day. This year we need to be more consistent with it. We can make the playoffs.”
His next step will be consistency. Through the first 21 games, roughly one quarter of the season, Wiggins has had some big games against lowly competition – 47 points against the Lakers, 36 in a loss to the Nets, and 35 against the Sixers and some duds scoring seven points twice but it’s all part of the process.
And while Canadian basketball continues to rise Wiggins will be there leading the pack.