Posted: 2:00 a.m. Friday, Oct. 11, 2013
This is pegged to be the Year Of Wiggins – that’s Andrew Wiggins of Kansas of course – and we aren’t about to deny his talent. We would like to offer some food for thought, however:
You could go on and on, but we’re assuming you get the point: lots and lots of players have been hailed as the Next Great Thing, yet many things – injuries, drugs, alcohol, personalities – manage to trip them up. Just check this brief list:
Albert King never had the desire to be great in basketball; he wanted to own restaurants (and does). Earl Jones just never panned out. Sam Bowie’s sad tale is well known. Sean Bradley certainly came out too early, but also never developed into a top player. Ralph Sampson’s personality and injuries greatly limited his accomplishments. Art Heyman, by his own admission, was too immature to listen to coaches. It cost him. Harold Miner was called Baby Jordan, but his career lasted just four years. Greg Oden’s sad tale is well known. So too are Chris Washburn’s and Len Bias’s. Washburn at least survived his drug addictions. Bias didn’t make it a day after being drafted.
We’re certainly not suggesting that Wiggins will have drug problems. He has a real advantage because his father, Mitchell, knows the pitfalls of a basketball career, having had a long one himself, unfortunately highlighted by a lengthy suspension after testing positive for cocaine.
Rather, we’re just saying that you can’t predict greatness ahead of time. Wiggins already is known for being reticent and not liking the spotlight. It’s about to get a lot harsher.
We should mention one other name here, and that’s former Miami Dolphin Ricky Williams. Williams has often been ridiculed for his love of marijuana, but what’s not always understood is that he had/has serious social anxiety which limited his career as much as the marijuana did. How can you predict that?
As intrigued as we are with Wiggins and his potential, Mike DeCourcy saw KU practice and said some rather startling things about freshman center Joel Embiid: “He owns physical gifts that call to mind Hakeem Olajuwon and basketball skills reminiscent of Tim Duncan. Embiid has great feet, jumps well, handles the ball like a skilled forward and fires perimeter jumpers with comfort and ease.”
If all that’s true, he could be the true prize at Kansas. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened. Buck Williams surpassed Albert King, Jeff Mullins surpassed Art Heyman and Olajuwon surpassed Sampson.
We’ll be watching, but hype is just hype.