The NCAA Tournament is, what, five months away? Yet Canada's potentate of the parquet, top NBA draft prospect Andrew Wiggins, will be on the cover of Sports Illustrated weeks ahead of his actual first game for the perennial powerful Kansas Jayhawks.
The SI cover typically represents the American sports zeitgeist at a given moment. In the midst of the NFL and college football seasons being in full swing and the Major League Baseball playoffs getting underway, there isn't much headline space left for college hoops. Yet the mag has deemed the 18-year-old guard from Thornhill, Ont., and his arrival at one of college hoops' magnet programs to be the most important sports story likely to draw mass consumer interest.
The magazine's director of photography, Brad Smith, tweeted out the cover shot on Wednesday morning. Hopefully that provides an idea of how much hype there is about Wiggins south of the border. The story compares evokes two other phenoms who came through Lawrence, Kansas: Wilt Chamberlain in the 1950s and Danny Manning in the 1980s. It also ponders the big hypothetical with Wiggins: whether he'll have the drive to reach the exalted heights of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He rarely needed that to dominate high school-aged competition.
"The cover story, authored by Sports Illustrated writer Luke Winn, details the parallels between Chamberlain, Manning and Wiggins arriving at Kansas.
“ 'The notion of what Andrew Wiggins could be, if he can cultivate a relentlessness to pair with his talent, is why he is being received differently — even at a school that’s won nine straight regular-season Big 12 titles and has two other potential first-rounders in guard Wayne Selden and center Joel Embiid,' writes Winn. 'Even in a college town that’s seen this already, twice.' " (Kansas City Star)
Wiggins provided a sneak peek at his talents during Kansas' annual season-launching intrasquad game last Friday, which drew a turn-away crowd of 9,000.
"Freshman from Ontario, Canada." We'll get the KU sports information staff to work on their geography.
Wiggins' and Kansas' first game is Oct. 29 vs. a Division II team, Pittsburg State. Their first game that should draw really wide attention is Nov. 12 against Duke at the Champions Classic in Chicago.
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.