LAS VEGAS – The Timberwolves’ public relations staff made its usual rounds near the end of the team’s Monday morning shootaround that featured a special appearance by just-signed superstar Kevin Garnett, asking reporters to whom they wanted to speak afterward.
The request, as it often is at the end of a Wolves practice, was for a fellow named Wiggins.
And this question came back: Which one?
“That’s funny,” said Nick Wiggins, older brother of Wolves rising star Andrew Wiggins.
Each brother was on the court Monday morning, younger brother Andrew working out with the summer league team while in Las Vegas to watch a game or two and work out with his own personal trainer, and older brother Nick invited to play with the Wolves against a Utah team for which he had just played in a Salt Lake City summer league. Nick Wiggins scored 11 points in 14 minutes in Monday’s loss to Utah in his first game with the Wolves summer team.
Nick is 24 and trying to find his way in professional basketball on a route that took him to three different colleges, a brief stop in the German pro league and three months in the D-League with a Boise, Idaho, team last winter before he played with the Jazz and Wolves summer-league teams this month.
Andrew is 20 and a YouTube sensation since he became a teenager. He was among the top prospects in his national recruiting draft class and the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft who became runaway Rookie of the Year winner.
Until Monday morning, they can never remember being teammates.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever been on the same team,” Andrew Wiggins said. “He has been older than me all my life.”
A 6-6 small forward who’s just a touch shorter than his younger brother, Nick Wiggins left his family’s Toronto home to play high-school ball for two years in Florida and then played his first collegiate season at Vincennes University and his second at Wabash Valley Junior College, both in Indiana.
He transferred to Wichita State for his final two seasons and came off the bench for a Shockers team that went all the way to the Final Four his junior year before it lost to Louisville in the semifinals. Wichita State then started his senior season 35-0 before it was upset as a top-seed by eighth-seeded Kentucky in an NCAA tournament second-round game.
“My college team Wichita State recruited Andrew a little bit, but Kansas won that battle out,” said Nick Wiggins, the middle of three brothers whose father Mitchell played in the NBA and mother Marita was an Olympic sprinter.
“I feel like we’re both on different paths. We’ve never been on the same team together, but I’d love to play with Andrew.”
Instead, he was the bigger brother who helped push younger brother to greatness, a role perhaps Garnett now will fulfill as Andrew follows his separate path.
“There were a lot of tough battles between me, him and our older brother Mitchell,” Nick Wiggins said.
“My dad was very competitive around our household, especially with sports, and my mom ran track-and-field so everybody wanted to be the best. We just all came from an athletic background.”
Brother Mitchell pushed Nick, who in turn pushed Andrew and provided advice.
“Of course, I’m his older brother so I just stayed on him and kept him levelheaded,” he said. “I was just being a big brother. It was all just to make him better. Taking it easy on him wouldn’t make him better, wouldn’t get him over the hump. Him being the best in his class, going up against all the best guys, you have to have him ready. He’s never been the type to back down from competition.
“He always wants to be No. 1, always wants to be the best. He has a great head on his shoulders, man.”
Little brother returned the favor, offering his own advice as it became apparent that, according to Nick, Andrew as a middle-school student competing against older players was destined for something special.
“Of course I listened to him,” Nick Wiggins said. “He’s very mature, and we hang out a lot off the court. He’s a great guy.”
Andrew Wiggins is following his path toward NBA stardom. Nick Wiggins is seeking his own, quieter way through Europe and the D-League toward a place in the NBA.
Commentators on NBA TV’s Jazz-Wolves broadcast Monday night referred to Nick as Andrew’s younger brother more than once.
“That’s funny, too,” Nick Wiggins said.
• The 1-2 Wolves will play 1-2 Portland at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday in the opening round of the Las Vegas Summer League’s tournament portion. The game will be on NBATV.
• Wolves rookie Karl-Anthony Towns and second-year guard Zach LaVine each left Las Vegas on Tuesday for Los Angeles because of separate commitments elsewhere.
Towns left to represent the Gatorade national high school Player of the Year award after he won it last year. He’s expected back for Wednesday’s game in Las Vegas.
LaVine will attend Wednesday night’s ESPY awards. With a laceration on his ring finger that sidelined him for Monday’s game, there’s a good chance he won’t play again in Las Vegas, where the Wolves are guaranteed at least two more games.