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NBA Saturday: Wiggins Aiming for Greatness

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Wiggins Aiming for Greatness

Andrew Wiggins doesn’t lack confidence, and that was clear from the moment he was introduced as the newest member of the Cleveland Cavaliers yesterday. The 19-year-old, who was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, expects to make an immediate impact on the Cavs and he’s setting some lofty goals for himself.

“I want to come in and create an impact off the bat, offensively and defensively, be a good teammate, be a good part of the organization,” Wiggins said. “I want to be on the All-Defensive team, be Rookie of the Year, make the All-Star team.”

Cavaliers head coach, David Blatt, smiled and responded, “I like that.”

Wiggins has been in the spotlight for years. When he was 13 years old, a mixtape of his highlights went viral and received millions of views. From that point on, he was thrust into the spotlight, expected to become a superstar. He has been compared to every legendary player imaginable and has had to deal with immense pressure at every level of his basketball career. He had been viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick for several years, and that finally became reality when the Cavaliers selected him on Thursday.

“It’s just crazy, man,” Wiggins said. “There are a thousand thoughts going through my head right now. 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.  Now going to high school and college, the opportunity and possibility of going No. 1 came into talk, and now I accomplished that so it’s just a crazy feeling right now.  I don’t really know how to feel.  It doesn’t even feel real right now.”

The Cavaliers chose Wiggins over the rest of the field because they believe he has the potential to become a superstar in the NBA, and not just on the offensive end. They love that he has the ability to impact a game on both ends of the floor and takes pride in being a lockdown defender.

”Andrew is a player we couldn’t be happier to have here for many, many reasons,” Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said. “Primarily because he’s a two-way player who has the potential to really exhibit greatness on both sides of the floor, and he’s going to be as good as he works himself to be. I think we’ve really come to understand that Andrew is driven to be truly special. And I think one of the things that mattered more to us than anything else in this process is that he wants to be truly special in the city of Cleveland. He’s all the way in on this team, the direction of this team and where we’re going as a city, and that spoke to us at a very guttural level.”

“One of Andrew’s greatest qualities is that he can play both ends of the court – and there’s always minutes for a guy that does that,” Blatt said. “I think any team and any great player has to have four things. It starts with character, and obviously and based on what Griff told you, and we did more than just a little bit of homework to find out what a young man this guy is. The second one is quality. Anyone who understands anything about basketball recognizes the great quality in Andrew’s game. The third thing is coaching, which is my responsibility to put him in the situation, put him in the positions on the floor where he can be successful he’ll help me by holding down his end on the other side so that keeps him out there. Finally is continuity. We didn’t bring Andrew in here for a year. This isn’t a one and done; this is a career player. And we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work with him.”

Wiggins said that his defensive intensity was instilled from a young age, when his father – former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins – emphasized that end of the court.

”It all started when I was young, my father always really emphasized that fact,” Wiggins said. “Everyone knows that defense wins games. I really took it personally. I tried to set goals every game about the person I’m guarding and just trying to lock them up. I don’t like when my man scores – even when I’m on the bench and he scores, that makes me mad. So it’s always been a big priority of mine.”

The fact that Wiggins’ father played in the NBA – and his mother was an Olympic sprinter – has helped him deal with the spotlight and everything that comes with being a basketball phenom.

“It’s been really good, really helpful, especially in times if I got down or I need some advice or wisdom or had any questions that needed to be answered,” Wiggins said. “He was always there for me because he’s experienced, he’s been there, he’s done that.  So he knows right from wrong, and he’s always leading me in the right direction.  That’s why I lean to him and my mother.”

Wiggins was inevitably asked about LeBron James and his potential return to Cleveland. He said that he’d be happy to play with the superstar, and offered a simple recruiting pitch.

“I want to win. If he wants to win, we’d be good together,” Wiggins said with a smile.

Cleveland seems like a perfect for Wiggins, since he’ll be able to ease into stardom rather than be the franchise’s savior from day one. He’s still a few years away from reaching his full potential, and in that time he’ll be able to lean on the team’s other young cornerstone’s Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett among others. Wiggins is actually close with Thompson and Bennett, since all three are from Canada and have played together in the past.

“I’m just looking forward to playing with my fellow Canadians, A.B. and Tristan,” Wiggins said. “I played with Tristan for a summer in AAU, and I played with Anthony for a while on the AAU circuit and the national level too.  So I’m just excited.  You know, the chemistry is already there with those guys.  I played with them already.  So I think big things are to come.”

If all goes as planned and Wiggins’ career goes as expected, big things are certainly to come.

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About Alex Kennedy

Alex Kennedy

Alex Kennedy is a Senior NBA Editor of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last seven seasons.

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