Kansas freshmen: early look

Andrew Wiggins

Perhaps you believe Andrew Wiggins is the nation's best freshman and perhaps you don't, but either way he's certainly among the country's top talents.

There's no debating one thing: The debate itself won't conclude anytime soon.

Andrew Wiggins holds the rare distinction of ranking No. 1 in two different classes. He emerged as an eighth grader and through the years exhibited the kind athletic dominance one rarely witnesses in a 6-8 prospect. Following the 2012 summer, he reigned as the clear top dog in the Class of 2014, and most scouts considered him the best player in the country regardless of class.

He announced his decision to reclass forward into the 2013 group last fall, and from there his recruitment heated past boiling and into lava territory. Kentucky and Florida State appeared to lead heading into decision day last spring, but Bill Self and Kansas won out and gave the Jayhawks the a legitimate chance to win the 2014 national title.

Wiggins proceeded to win various preseason awards, with some publications going so far as to name him the preseason national player of the year.

At that point, contrary opinions surfaced — mine included — that Wiggins is No. 1 in the class based on the future, not necessarily the present. His shooting and ball-handling are inconsistent now, and though he possesses the coordination and touch to improve them significantly, that's likely to take place in an NBA uniform.

And while that may prove true this season, he's certainly been no slouch thus far. Wiggins is averaging 17 points per game while hitting 55 percent from the field for the loaded Jayhawks, and he played his best last week in a marquee matchup versus Duke: 22 points and eight rebounds on 9-15 shooting.

His performance in KU's win over the Blue Devils was no fluke. Wiggins always has played down to the competition a little, yet he also steps up in key moments. He'll need to push himself harder versus lesser lights, but he reveals the whole arsenal of athletic talents when matched against formidable opponents.

And the stats don't illustrate his defensive potential, which bore fruit versus Duke and should make him a weapon on both ends of the court.

The opinion remains that Julius Randle and Jabari Parker, perhaps among others, will enjoy a more productive season. But along with that, I expect Wiggins to enjoy occasional scoring binges — particularly during big games — and still become the No. 1 draft pick next spring.

Kansas didn't sign a one-man class. Powerful guard Wayne Selden exited high school as our No. 12 prospect, and he has lived up to billing as a tough, somewhat understated backcourt performer. He has started each game and is averaging 10 points, four rebounds and three assists per game, and though he hasn't shot well his short-term future also lies in the NBA.

The most mysterious of the signees was center Joel Embiid. The native of Cameroon burst onto the scene last season and finished at No. 23 in the class, which appears to perhaps be a little low based on his obvious talent. He's a work in progress offensively, yet despite that he's averaging nine points and eight rebounds in under 20 minutes per game.

He's a very talented passer for a big man, handing out five assists versus Duke. That versatility and skill make him an exciting possibility not only for the professional ranks, but perhaps for Kansas by the end of this season.

Two additional top-100 freshmen are suiting up for KU this season. Due to the massive talent on hand, neither Brannen Greene nor Conner Frankamp is averaging more than 10 minutes per game. Their time will come, but likely not this season. Self actually held out Greene in Tuesday's game versus Iona due to an off-court issue, but that doesn't appear to be serious.

But there's yet another newcomer who's making an impact. Unranked, late bloomer guard Frank Mason has earned 18 minutes per outing and appears to have strong, four-year potential as a floor general.

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