I’ve always thought it was grossly unfair to compare anyone coming into college to LeBron James. We never compare anyone to Kobe Bryant for some reason but that is a conversation for another time. Before anyone blows up and tries to explain why we compare every forward with some skills to LeBron James, I get it. He is the best player on the planet right now, I understand that. Kids all over the world strive to be like LeBron.
We can’t really compare a college freshmen to LeBron because there is no body of work to compare to. We can compare their freshman year to his rookie season but that is like comparing apples to bowling balls. They both are smooth on the outside but that is about the extent of the comparisons.
There is no doubt that Andrew Wiggins is a legitimate basketball player. There is also no doubt that he is going to be an NBA basketball player. Don’t read into this diatribe that anyone at College Hoops Daily would suggest that Wiggins isn’t a good basketball player with the potential for greatness.
We are far better off comparing Wiggins to Harrison Barnes or Carmelo Anthony. Both were highly touted coming into college but they had very different college careers. Both were (and are) very good basketball players, even at the NBA level.
Anthony played one year and literally carried his team on his back to a national title and Barnes left college without a title, not quite living up to the All-American hype.
In his freshman year at Syracuse, Anthony averaged a double-double, scoring over 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds each game. Barnes averaged just over 15 points and five rebounds per contest. While seven points and four rebounds per game didn’t make or break Carolina’s season, they also didn’t validate Barnes pre-season All-American nomination.
Wiggins is in a similar boat. On a talented team, tabbed as the next LeBron James and a bucketful of out-of-this-world expectations attached to his name.
The difference between Anthony and Barnes went well beyond the stat sheet. If we look at the roster many would make the argument that Barnes had a much better team than Anthony did during his one season in college. The difference is in the unmeasurables. Anthony excelled in big game situations and leadership. He excelled in picking up the slack on nights when his team had an off night. He spearheaded and engineered one of the greatest NCAA tournament runs in history.
To put it simply, Barnes did not. The North Carolina teams during Barnes two years were known for being very talented, making it to the Elite 8 both of those years. They just couldn’t get the job done.
The difference between 02-03 Syracuse and 10-11, 11-12 North Carolina was that unmeasurable quality of clutch leadership. Anthony took over a games, Barnes didn’t.
This is the burden that falls to Andrew Wiggins. Kansas is good enough to win a national title but are sure to run up against blue bloods in tournament. Will he be Anthony or Barnes? Can he close out a game and take over, propelling the Jayhawks to a win when they need it? These of course aren’t questions that we can definitively answer until March, although we will get a good look when Duke and Kansas face off on Tuesday night.
(photo from thestar.com)