They were at the NBA rookie symposium last week, ready to pose for a photo shoot, when it just happened. An impromptu slam-dunk contest.
Memphis’ Jarnell Stokes did a reverse. Meh.
Then the Timberwolves’ Glenn Robinson III did a 360. Nice.
Fellow Wolf Zach LaVine bounced it off the wall, took it through his legs and put it down. Impressive.
And then: Andrew Wiggins. He casually dribbled into the lane, jumped, did a 360 while moving the ball behind his back, and dunked.
Wow. This is what Wolves fans should look forward to this fall.
Wiggins was wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey during all this. Go ahead and watch … it’s on YouTube, of course; in the digital age you can watch young stars grow up on video.
Certainly that’s true for Wiggins, a Toronto native whose nickname is Maple Jordan. He had a dunk highlight tape at 13. It’s not hard to find video of him at the Nike Peach Jam in 2012, where he dominated Julius Randle, becoming the top high school recruit in the nation. Or his appearance at LeBron James’ skills camp that same year, when he brought James himself to his feet.
Was it kismet that had Robinson, LaVine and Wiggins playing around last week? Maybe not. With the word that the Wolves will send Kevin Love to Cleveland in two weeks for a package that includes Wiggins — the top pick in June’s draft after a strong freshman season at Kansas — Wolves fans should get to know the 6-8, 200-pounder with the 7-foot wingspan and 44-inch vertical jump.
According to Kansas coach Bill Self, Wiggins is the best natural athlete who has ever played for him.
“Ben McLemore was a freak,” Self said. “Brandon Rush was unbelievable. But when Andrew is turned up? He can do things athletically nobody else can do.”
The Wolves, rebuilding again, will likely give him all the room and opportunity he needs to grow.
“That’s the way he sees it,” Self said. “He’s happy. Don’t anybody feel sorry for him. I’m not saying he hasn’t been in limbo and that it hasn’t, at times, been frustrating. But he told me, ‘Coach, I’m good with this.’ He told me that two weeks ago.’’
So when the trade is officially announced, Wiggins will arrive in Minnesota, aware of the hype that will come along for the ride. But he’s used to it.
Wiggins, 19, was born into a very athletic family. His father, Mitchell, played six years in the NBA before extending his career overseas; indeed, it was in Greece that a very young Andrew fell in love with the game, able to accompany his dad to practices and games.
His mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, won two silver medals at the 1984 Olympics as part of Canada’s 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams. She still holds national records in the 200 and 400.
His older brother, Nick, played at Wichita State.