Andrew Wiggins - The next great Canadian basketball hope.
Andrew Wiggins: Canada's great basketball hope
Dad was an NBAer, mom an Olympic sprinter
MIKE GANTER, TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2010 4:46:56 EST PM | UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2010 6:14:21 EST PM
Change text size for the storyPrint this story
NEW YORK - You are 15 years old and you can google yourself and see words like "The Great Canadian Hope" and "Hoops prodigy" next to your name.
Your name is Andrew Wiggins. You are still in high school. You can't legally drive a car, yet newspapers and internet sites have been praising your abilities on the basketball court for years already.
How do you not get a swelled head?
Ask his even more famous father that question and Mitch Wiggins has an easy answer.
"He's not even the best player in his family yet," Wiggins, a veteran of six years in the NBA said recently.
And the father isn't even referring to himself. He's talking about older brothers Mitch Jr. and Nick who not only routinely beat their younger, more famous brother on the hardwood but don't mind keeping him honest off the court in ways in which only older brothers are adept and comfortable.
Mitch Wiggins, the father, has an extensive international basketball resume in addition to his half dozen years in the NBA and while he admits a certain degree of bias when it comes to his own son, he doesn't consider the hype unwarranted.
"Andrew athletically and talent wise, even if he wasn't my son, I would say he's as good as it gets right now," Mitch Wiggins offered.
You're not going to get a disagreement from Leo Rautins, head coach of the Canadian senior men's team and a guy who could have Wiggins on his roster in the very near future.
"He's as good as anybody in North America at that age," Rautins said matter-of-factly. "He's got a great body, No. 1. Very gifted athletically and he's got a nice feel for the game instinctively. I still say he's raw. He's not even scratching the surface yet. But instinctively he does a lot of things very well.
"When Vince Carter first started with the Raptors, John Saunders (broadcast partner) and I would watch him and at least once a game one of us would ask the other: 'He didn't just do that, did he?' Andrew is like that. He'll do things and you find yourself saying, 'Are you serious? Did he do that?'"
What makes Rautins less guarded than he would normally be when talking about a potential future great Canadian basketball player is the knowledge that not only is Wiggins supremely talented, he's surrounded by people looking out for his best interests.
"We know his dad isn't going to let him get comfortable," Rautins said. "A lot of kids don't have that support system with somebody in their corner that knows the game, knows how it works."
In fact, Wiggins is doubly blessed in the athletic department with a former NBA player for a father and a former national team sprinter for a mom. Marita Payne-Wiggins competed in three Olympics for Canada and won two silver medals. Between the two of them there is very little they have not experienced that their son may one day have to deal with.
For now, Wiggins is attending Vaughan Secondary where his brothers went, playing on the high school team while working with his dad and members of the Canada Basketball coaching family as he hones his craft.
There has been no firm decision about heading south to a prep school, but that has certainly been discussed.
Wiggins himself says it will likely happen sooner than later.
His dad knows it too. "I don't know if he will be back in Canada," Mitch Wiggins said. "We've had the top of the top prep schools calling since the (under-17) world championship. The top colleges are calling. We're going to take our time and make the right decision."
Wiggins and the Canadian cadet team put Canada back on the international basketball map this summer, winning a bronze medal at the under-17s in Hamburg, Germany.
Wiggins enjoyed the experience so much he wants another taste this summer. He could play for Canada at the FIBA Americas under-16 championship for men in Mexico in June or the under-19 worlds in Latvia in July. Or compete in both. At this point no one is ruling out anything including playing for the senior men's national team as they head to Mar del Plata, Argentina this summer and attempt to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.
"He wants the top competition," Mitch Wiggins said. "He wants it. He's hungry for it. He wants to be one of the best players to ever come from Canada."
At 6-foot-8 and still growing, Andrew Wiggins is comfortable playing three of the five positions on the court. His dad, who has always instructed his boys to train "like they were little guys and work on their little man skills", says what position his son plays is really irrelevant.
"Andrew to me is like LeBron (James) or Michael (Jordan)," Mitch Wiggins said. "You don't put him in a position. You just put him on the court because he's a player. He can play the 1, the 2, or the 3. He can defend any of those positions, he rebounds like a big man, handles the ball like a guard. He's 6-foot-8 with a seven-foot wingspan. And he has a basketball IQ."
Rautins adds he has all that and another quality the best athletes in the world have - a love of competition.
"He's kind of a laid-back kid but he's got that fire," Rautins said. "We've had some workouts with older guys and he just picks them up, gets right into them. He's not afraid. He'll go in and he doesn't care if there is a big guy in the way. He's going to dunk on him. He has a real good competitive side."
Andrew Wiggins is not there yet. As his father points out, there is still plenty to learn and improve upon. But with the talent base he possesses, the advantage of having two former high-level athletes as parents, and the support group that goes with that, Wiggins is well on his way to going as far as he wants basketball to take him.