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Continued: Basketball fame — and fortune — came to Wiggins at a young age

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 30, 2014 - 11:55 PM

“They’ve always given me their wisdom and advice for what’s next to come,” said Wiggins, who was accompanied by his parents and his three sisters but not two older basketball-playing brothers on his welcoming trip in Minnesota last week. “They keep me levelheaded and make sure I always stay motivated.”

Driven to succeed

A season spent playing big-time basketball at Kansas didn’t hurt, either.

“Schools like Kansas, UNC, Duke, all those big schools, they treat their basketball players like rock stars,” Wiggins said. “It really prepared me for times like this. It translates.”

Still, he is about to make a leap forward that, despite all the preparation in the world, he can only imagine.

His lone season at Kansas included a 41-point performance against West Virginia in March but enough uneven moments in a system beside other talented players to temper talk that he’s the best prospect to enter the NBA since that guy named LeBron.

That season led some NBA scouts to question Wiggins’ motor and assertiveness. The man who traded for him, Wolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders, sees it differently, suggesting Wiggins proved in that season that he’s willing to be unselfish — “Not just a one-man show,” Saunders said — and part of a team concept, traits Wiggins will need playing with other acclaimed players in the NBA.

Saunders noted he received a text from Wiggins the day the trade was completed, a short and sweet one because Wiggins had just completed a lengthy training session and was about to head into another one.

“He wants to be great,” Saunders said.

Rock show coming?

Saunders acknowledges it will take time and patience from all parties involved and has been careful to include fellow newcomers Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young and LaVine fairly equally in all welcoming promotions this past week.

That didn’t stop the team’s sales staff from wearing wigs — wig, Wiggins, get it? — at work the day the trade was announced. The Wolves held an all-staff meeting two days later in the Target Center arena during which the lights were darkened and a flashy highlight-reel video featuring the four newest players was played on the big overhead scoreboard.

Wolves Vice President of Sales and Service Ryan Tanke called it a “rock show” atmosphere and a “new age” for a team that just had traded away its best player and former face of the franchise. The team sold more than 300 full season tickets last week, more than it did the week Ricky Rubio arrived in 2011, and its website last week received record traffic for visits and page views. Its total season-ticket revenue has surpassed all of last season’s.

“It was a celebration, definitively a celebration,” he said of a welcome that is centered upon the No. 1 overall pick.

His future in doubt almost since he was drafted No. 1 overall by Cleveland, Wiggins now finally knows where he’ll call home for what he calls a “very, very long time,” even if a certain segment of Toronto Raptors fans already are fitting him for a jersey some years down the road.

Wiggins’ college coach, Bill Self, made some news in the weeks before the trade was announced when he said Wiggins wanted the trade even if it meant he wouldn’t play with James because he’d be “forced to be something.”

“Not my exact words, but we had the same idea,” Wiggins said. “I wanted to go to a place where I’m pushed to do a lot and become a special piece for the team. It’ll help me reach my potential. … I said I wanted to play for a team that wanted me, and now I’m here and I feel nothing but love.”

And through it all, Wiggins walks like a man out for a stroll in the park, like he has done this almost all his life.

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