For the last month, Andrew Wiggins’ basketball skills have been analyzed and ground into a fine dust. He still won’t play a college basketball game for another 10 days — and even that will be an exhibition game — but this is life as the nation’s most heralded freshman.
So on Friday afternoon, as former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy watched a KU basketball practice in Allen Fieldhouse, he was happy to get his first look at Wiggins — and KU’s other talented young players.
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Beyond the elite and mouth-watering athleticism — which Wiggins flashed on a one-handed baseline dunk from the block — Van Gundy was most impressed with a quieter aspect of Wiggins’ game.
“More than anything,” Van Gundy said, “it is his ability to get down and move his feet defensively. That sounds crazy because everybody always watches offense, but as somebody that’s always sort of looked at the game defensively, I was really impressed with that.”
Van Gundy, the former Orlando Magic coach, was in Lawrence to appear as the special guest at Bill Self’s annual coaching clinic. His brother, Jeff, had held down the same role a few years ago, and afterward, Jeff kept telling Stan that he had to see Kansas.
“Just to be in this building is great,” Van Gundy said. “I’ve never been here before, and as somebody who grew up watching the game with a father who coached, this is one of the iconic places.”
He was also happy to watch Self conduct a practice. After spending most of the last two decades in the NBA, Van Gundy had never crossed paths with Self.
“I think one of the best things in coaching is anytime you can watch somebody else practice,” Van Gundy said. “To watch a guy like Bill run practice, the way he goes about it, I’ve got four or five pages of notes there.”
After watching a more than two-hour practice session, Van Gundy said he was impressed with Wiggins’ shooting ability — at least compared to similar players that have come through college and the NBA in recent years.
“If I compare him to guys who have come into the league out of high school, like a LeBron,” Van Gundy said, “he’s a far better shooter than most of those athletic-type guys are when they come into the league. Those guys weren’t comfortable shooting the ball as a rookie.
“I had (Dwyane) Wade as a rookie. Now he was coming out of college — (Wiggins) seems more comfortable shooting the ball than most of those other athletic guys.”
Unprompted, Van Gundy said he was also impressed by 7-foot freshman center Joel Embiid.
“I think he’s gonna be really good,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a talented guy. He’s got touch, he’s athletic … they got some good players.
“I’m used to young guys — you see the talent but they play a little bit young, wild and crazy. You don’t see that out here. They play under control and obviously are doing what Bill wants.”