NEW YORK — The hype has surrounded him for years. "The Canadian LeBron," "Maple Jordan," an Internet sensation out of Toronto, routed through Huntington, W.Va., delivered via YouTube. And now, after a one-year stopover in Lawrence, Kan., he's arrived. Andrew Wiggins is here, and on Thursday night in Brooklyn, the Cleveland Cavaliers made him the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
"A thousand thoughts going through my head right now," Wiggins told reporters after his selection. "It's a dream come true. I've been dreaming of this moment since I was a little kid. My dream was just to make the NBA; going to high school and college, the possibility of going No. 1 came into talk, and I accomplished it.
"It doesn't even feel real right now," Wiggins said.
Heading into the draft, there was some concern that the Cavaliers' brain trust was divided on the proper direction to take with the top selection, with owner Dan Gilbert reportedly favoring Wiggins and the "majority of" the front office led by new general manager David Griffin leaning toward Duke forward Jabari Parker. Gilbert quickly denied such reports, proclaiming Cleveland's decision-makers "united" on the path forward. Evidently, the prospect behind who they were united was the 19-year-old Wiggins, who is considered one of the more naturally gifted wing prospects to come into the draft in years.
The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Wiggins combines remarkable leaping ability, quickness and a finisher's instincts in transition, and the length (a 7-foot wingspan, per DraftExpress) and agility to be able to stifle opposing scorers on the perimeter. He earned first-team All-Big 12 and second-team All-American honors in his lone collegiate season, averaging 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals and one block per game for coach Bill Self, who joined the Wiggins family in the green room at Barclays Center at Thursday's draft.
Wiggins deftly deflected questions about whether he thought he'd fit better as a shooting guard or small forward in the NBA.
"I think I can play both," he said. "I think I'm tall enough and skilled enough to play the two or three."
Pressed on a preference, Wiggins showed a veteran's hand, looking to endear himself with new Cavaliers head coach David Blatt, who he called "a great coach [who is] going to do great things for our team."
"Whatever the coach wants me to play, I'm playing," he said with a laugh.
Wiggins becomes the second consecutive Canadian-born player drafted with the No. 1 pick, following in the footsteps of 2013's top selection, UNLV forward Anthony Bennett, whom he will now join as a member of the Cavaliers. Wiggins, Bennett, and Brampton, Ontario-born power forward Tristan Thompson, whom the Cavaliers drafted at No. 4 overall in 2011, make give Cleveland a strong collection of north-of-the-border talent and, perhaps, an extra level of familiarity that will help the rookie get off to a quick start.
"I'm just looking forward to playing with my fellow Canadians, AB and Tristan [Thompson]," Wiggins said, explaining that he'd played with both Bennett and Thompson on the AAU circuit and with the national team over the past several years. "I'm just excited — the chemistry's already there with those guys. ... I think big things are to come."
After four straight losing seasons and lottery trips, Cleveland's brass and fans certainly hope for big things, too, as visions of the next competitive iteration of the Cavaliers — led by All-Star MVP Kyrie Irving at the point, Wiggins on the wing, and Bennett and Thompson overmatching the opposition up front — dance through their heads.
The future comes tomorrow, though. For now, Wiggins — the son of former Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers guard Mitchell Wiggins and two-time Olympic-silver-medal-winning sprinter Marita Payne — will simply celebrate.
"Today's just been busy, a lot of running around just preparing for this moment — this came so fast," he said. "This time last year, I had just graduated from high school, so this time just came so fast to me.
"It's a huge moment for me and my family right now, especially because my [parents] were pro athletes before," he added. "Now they can live the dream again through me, and watch their son do something special with his life and play at the highest level of basketball. We cherish moments like this."
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