Freshmen Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle delivered on their promise — and the promise of a stellar rivalry for years to come Tuesday night. Round 1 of Parker vs. Wiggins may have gone to Wiggins, but it left everyone waiting for the next matchup…and the one after that…and the one after that…
Score it 27 points, nine rebounds and highlight-reel dominance for Parker and 22 points and eight rebounds for Wiggins, whose Jayhawks won 94-83 in Chicago. How great was it? “… [I]n a sporting rarity, the showdown lived up to the towering hype,” Yahoo’s Pat Forde writes. “It might even have soared over it, giving us a glimpse of the sport’s promising future.”
For Parker, the game was a chance to mark his place in Chicago, where he grew up. “It’s remarkable that a kid who’s 18, in his second game, can come in here in your hometown – and you’re playing against Kansas – and he was sensational,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in what actually may have been an understatement. Kansas’ Bill Self admitted that Parker, who came up with a dunk straight out of the Grant Hill history books, “was the best player in the game for a long time.”
But then Wiggins, saying it was a matter of “pride,” took it upon himself with no prompting from Self to start guarding Parker and, well, that was that. “People have made a lot about Andrew’s personality, because he’s so mild-mannered and non-demonstrative,” Self said, “but he is competitive. That dude wanted [to guard Parker].”
Meanwhile, over at Kentucky:
The Wildcats lost 78-74 to Michigan State, but Coach Tom Izzo was impressed. “What I loved about him, he gritted his teeth, was ornery and nasty and he wanted to put them on his shoulders,” he said. “For a freshman, that speaks volumes.”
It was heady stuff, a night that had everyone, including Coach K, thinking about the future and what might be a temptation for NBA teams to tank games for an improved shot at drafting Parker, Wiggins or Julius Randle. These guys are that good.
“There are a number of kids tonight who are going to be top-notch NBA players,” Krzyzewski said. “As an American, I would like to think that an American team would never want to lose or create situations where you’d want to lose. So I can’t even fathom — I can’t go there. I can’t believe that would happen. Maybe I’m naive and I’m going to read a fairy tale after this, but — if that is happening, shame on whoever is doing it.”
Self either wasn’t ready to drink the Kool-Aid on the freshmen or he was tamping down the hype because it’s in his best interests to do so.
“Those three have a chance to all be special,” Self said. “It’s also one week into the season, less than one week. People are too giddy about certain guys because of the unknown. When guys are seen and studied and figured out, there’s going to be a little bit of a roller coaster for all these young kids.”