Andrew Wiggins is the favourite to be picked No. 1 in the 2014 NBA draft (Nam Y. Huh, The Associated Press)
Finding out where Maple Jordan, small forward extraordinaire, will spend his "purgatory year in college" before becoming the likely first overall choice in the 2014 NBA draft was a nice little diversion. Wiggins and his inner circle played it masterfully in a way that was anti-LeBronian ("doing it quietly in front of friends, family and teammates … and a single reporter"). The latter route where The Decision plays out publicly is not altogether bad, but there's still something to be said for letting it remain a personal choice.
This is the biggest I've seen Andrew Wiggins smile in six months. He was ready, he was patient and he did it his way. Kudos to the kid.
— Grant Traylor (@GrantTraylor) May 14, 2013
Bill Self and Kurtis Townsend are a great fit for Wiggins, who can also utilize the weight room to get stronger.
— Grant Traylor (@GrantTraylor) May 14, 2013
College basketball experts who follow the sport year-round can better speak to the impact the 18-year-old Wiggins will have on the Jayhawks as a one-and-done player. North of the border, the burning question should be how far the country's lone NBA franchise, the MLSE-owned Raptors, should go to manoeuvre to get the first Southern Ontario born- and -bred hoops star in the 2014 draft.
It shouldn't even be a question of if they should. In terms of (a) relevancy to the casual sports fan and (b) rewarding a loyal fanbase which is almost as steadfast as the supporters of other perennial also-ran Toronto teams, what is MLSE clinging to? Filling a hole in the Raptors' lineup this summer after GM Bryan Colangelo heads out the door won't turn heads. Somehow going from 34 wins to 44 and going down fighting in the first round of the playoffs, Toronto Maple Leafs-style, won't hit that nerve.
The very fact that Canada has a coming golden generation of basketball stars coming up through the ranks — among others, Tristan Thompson was a lottery pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011 while Brampton, Ont.'s Anthony Bennett and Kamloops, B.C.'s Kelly Olynyk should be first-rounders in this summer's draft — proves the worth of having a franchise in Toronto. Yet you still hear grousing about the franchise's mere existence. That overlooks that the effect of the Raptors' presence on grassroots Canadian basketball. It has has been the same as the influence the Wayne Gretzky Los Angeles Kings and Mario Lemieux Pittsburgh Penguins of the early 1990s had on inspiring honest-to-goodness NHL prospects to emerge from areas of the U.S. where hockey had only been an entertainment product, not a sport locals could realistically aspire to play at the highest level.
It behooves the Raptors, at a crossroads (as always), to try to break off a piece of that in the next few years. The obvious symbiosis between the Raptors and Canada Basketball shouldn't be lost on anyone either. Bell owns 37.5 per cent of MLSE. Bell is a major sponsor of the upwardly mobile Canada Basketball. Rogers, which also owns 37.5%, is trying to clear space for itself underneath the basket as a destination for fans, perhaps in anticipation there might be something which would draw more eyeballs to a property.
Similar to how Cavs got James
The Raptors achieving a modicum of respectability will not have that moth-to-a-flame effect. It doesn't seem plausible that the Raptors having a Canadian who starts or is good enough to be his team's second or third option on offence would budge the needle. Wiggins, who has steadily indicated that he is everything he's cracked up to be, would do so. It seems like a huge weight to place across a teenager's but LeBron James did it with the Cleveland Cavaliers when he was drafted directly out of high school in 2003. Moreover, the Cavs angled to be in position to win the draft lottery by letting the chips fall where they may during that season. Then, wouldn't you know it (wink), their number came up in the lottery, which was not the first nor the last time the NBA had incoming dunking demigod fall in the lap of the right team.
Wiggins' low-key approach might also jibe with starring in his hometown. He carries himself humbly, the same way Canadians expect from their athletic heroes, read, hockey stars. His support network is there, too, which seems to have a strong import for Wiggins. His choice to play for the Jayhawks is in that vein. Lawrence, Kansas, is about 300 km cross-state from Wichita, where Wiggins' older brother Nick Wiggins headed into his senior season with the Wichita State Shockers.
Plus the introductions to the Canadian public have already been made, even if it took much longer than it would with a phenom that other winter sport.
It makes too much sense, at least in the mind's eye. There is risk involved and with MLSE, the people in place to turn the gears are where they are because they avoid risk. Letting a chance to land a generational Canadian baller slip by would be classic never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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