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Wiggins introduces himself to packed Allen Fieldhouse

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, at 10:48 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, at 11:51 a.m.

— Andrew Wiggins skipped onto the Allen Fieldhouse floor in a crisp, black tuxedo, smiling as he slid into place behind fellow freshman Joel Embiid. The sound of the Justin Timberlake hit song “Suit & Tie” blared, and Wiggins and a group of Kansas players broke into one of those choreographed dance numbers at the Jayhawks’ annual “Late Night in the Phog.”

If you’re going to start the season-long examination of Wiggins, the most heralded Kansas basketball recruit in a generation, you might as well start with his dance moves.

OK, they were a little stilted, maybe even reserved at moments, before Wiggins finally broke into a smile and busted out a freestyle solo.

“He was just sweating bullets,” KU sophomore guard Andrew White III said. “(He was) telling me he wasn’t ready and all that. I was just trying to relax him.”

Of course, as Kansas coach Bill Self had warned a short while earlier: If you’re going to judge this latest Kansas team by first impressions, you may be a little disappointed.

This was the theme of KU’s 29th annual unofficial beginning of what could be the most anticipated — and intriguing — season since Self walked in the door 11 years ago. On Friday afternoon, a crowd of more than 20,000 lined up outside Allen Fieldhouse to gets its first glimpse of Wiggins, the consensus top recruit in the country, and a six-man freshman class that is likely the deepest of Self’s career.

When Self stepped on the floor and grabbed the microphone for his message to the fans, he asked for a little bit of patience for his young squad, which includes eight newcomers after Kansas lost all five starters off last year’s team.

“I know expectations are high,” Self said. “But as a fan, you’ll drive yourself nuts if you’re not somewhat patient.”

But moments later, it appeared that Self had tempered the hopes and expectations enough for one night. As he left the floor, he pointed up to the national championship banners — three NCAA — that hang above one side of the fieldhouse.

“It’s time to hang one more banner,” Self said, walking off the floor to rapturous applause.

By the time the Jayhawks finally took the floor for their 20-minute scrimmage, that message had soaked in. But after Wiggins finished the night with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including a steal and a one-handed dunk in the opening minutes, it was easy to imagine what Kansas might look like in January or February.

Sophomore Perry Ellis led the Blue team, which included Wiggins, with 14 points in a 66-40 victory over a Crimson team that featured Embiid (seven points) and freshman guard Wayne Selden (six points). For Self, it was a sloppy display of basketball with little to no defense.

“That was brother-in-law ball,” Self said. “I don’t know who told them to do that, but obviously the veterans said this is how we do it. And we’ll get that corrected.”

KU fans had begun lining up outside 24 hours earlier, assembling camping tents and waiting in lawn chairs. By early Friday afternoon, the lines stretched down Naismith Drive, snaking toward different corners of campus. By 6:15, the building was at capacity.

KU played host to three top-20 recruits in the 2014 class. Chicago forward Cliff Alexander, the No. 4 overall recruit in Rivals’ top 150, was in the building, along with guard Kelly Oubre of Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. Oubre, originally from the Houston area, is the No. 12 overall recruit in Rivals’ top 150. Malik Pope, a small forward from Elk Grove, Calif., was also on his official visit.

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