Andrew Wiggins has become a household name, largely due to the unparalleled media attention he has received.
Particularly leading into the Vaughan, Ontario native's freshman year at the University of Kansas, with the ESPN Magazine and Sports Illustrated covers, a GQ feature, and SportsCentre highlights that have created an immeasurable amount of excitement - so much so, that it makes it impossible to live up to the hype.
Traditionally, the early part of most NCAA programs schedule's are loaded with cupcake opponents, and teams or players aren't truly tested until conference play in the new year. However on Tuesday night, the State Farm Championship Classic not only pit the #4 Duke Blue Devils against the #5 Kansas Jayhawks in not only a top level match up, but featured the #1 (Wiggins) and #2 (Jabari Parker) high school recruits in the country squaring off against one another.
Wiggins would face a true test to see if he was every bit as good as the hype. There would no longer be any questions, judging the ease and ability of his game against his inferior opponents. Despite what the players said, the match-up of Wiggins vs. Parker didn't disappoint for in the closely contested basketball game that showcased much more talent then the two heralded freshmen, it was still Wiggins leading his Jayhawks down the stretch to a 94-83 victory.
Notwithstanding foul trouble, which kept him on the bench for much of the first half, Wiggins finished the game with 22 points and eight rebounds. His step back jumper with 1:33 left and fast break dunk seconds later started a 10-2 Jayhawks run to close out the game. He shot 9-15 from the field with many of those high percentage baskets on the break. Wiggins had eight transition points, one more than the entire Blue Devils team.
While Parker had a monstrous first half with 19 points, he fouled out, trying to stop Wiggins, ironically, with 27 points and nine rebounds. Earlier in the evening, #1 ranked Kentucky fell to #2 Michigan State and UK's super freshman Julius Randle added 27 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.
"Big players make big plays," Wiggins said. "I think our whole team, whoever was on the court, every possession we made a big play. That's why we came out on top." Despite the competition, Wiggins was the biggest player of the night and much like his personality, performed with a modest display of his abilities. He still teases with his untapped potential, but rose to the occasion to prove that in fact, the hype is real.
FIVE CANADIANS TO WATCH, THIS NCAA SEASON
Unquestionably, all eyes are on Wiggins but here are five other Canadians that will garner attention this season.
Nik Stauskas, Small Forward, University of Michigan (Sophomore)
Last season, the Mississauga, Ontario swingman was playing in the NCAA Championship game as a freshman. The deadly 3-point shooter returns, without teammates Naismith Player of the Year Trey Burke and shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who have both gone to the NBA and will be relied upon more heavily by the Wolverines. Stauskas added 16 pounds of muscle during the offseason and committed to improving his defense.
Kevin Pangos, Point Guard, Gonzaga University (Junior)
Pangos is the head of the snake for the Bulldogs, and will have more work cut out for him without NBA lottery pick Kelly Olynyk. The Holland Landing, Ontario native averaged 11.9 points a game and shot .417% from the 3-point line last season. Pangos looked to improve on both sides of the ball, leading Canada's Development Team this summer.
Tyler Ennis, Point Guard, Syracuse University (Freshman)
As a freshman, Ennis steps into the starting line-up as Michael Carter-Williams left for the NBA, and will take the reigns of the Orangemen offense. As the only true point guard on the roster the Brampton, Ontario playmaker is known as a facilitator, but he can put the ball in the net. Ennis led the Under 19 World FIBA Championships tournament in scoring this past summer, averaging 20.9 points per game.
Dwight Powell, Power Forward, Stanford University (Senior)
Last season, the Toronto, Ontario native was named Pac-12 Most Improved Player of the Year along with All Pac-12 First Team honours averaging a team-high 14.9 points a game and 8.4 rebounds. Powell spent the summer playing on the Canadian Men's Development Team touring China and competing in the World University Games shooting 61.9% from the field and averaging 12.1 points and 5.1 rebounds.
Daniel Mullings, Shooting Guard, New Mexico State (Junior)
Mullings is a versatile player and a solid perimeter defender that chipped in 13.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game last season. He will have an expanded role this year and was voted pre-season Western Athletic Conference player of the year.