By Austin Meek
LAWRENCE — Kansas could have sold tickets for Wednesday’s scrimmage and filled Allen Fieldhouse to the rafters.
Instead, the unofficial debut of freshman Andrew Wiggins was witnessed by a gym full of campers and enough word-of-mouth spectators to threaten the Horejsi Center’s fire code compliance.
No one went home disappointed, either. Within a few seconds of the opening tip, Wiggins broke free in the open floor and soared for a dunk over Cole Aldrich, a three-year NBA veteran.
"I let loose of all my nerves," said Wiggins, who added a step-back 3-pointer and another breakaway dunk to finish with seven points. "It was good after that dunk."
A buzz had been building since it was revealed that Wiggins would enroll in summer school at KU instead of competing with the Canadian under-19 team. For the most scrutinized Canadian teenager since Justin Bieber, a quiet arrival was virtually impossible.
"We’ve recruited other good players before, but we haven’t had anybody with this type of attention," coach Bill Self said. "I kind of feel for him. He's going to have to be able to tell people no. He’s got professional autograph seekers waiting for him every time he steps out of his apartment, stuff like that."
The fact that Wiggins is in Lawrence at all qualifies as a pleasant surprise for the Jayhawks, who were prepared for him to spend the summer competing on the international circuit. Wiggins said he might practice with the Canadian national team later in the summer, but he wanted to acclimate himself as much as possible before his freshman season.
"I know that college is a big step from high school, so I just wanted to make sure I was ready for it," Wiggins said.
That means getting ready for the crush of attention that will surround Wiggins from now until he declares for the NBA draft. With the basketball season more than four months away, the hope is that Wiggins can enjoy a quiet summer, or as quiet as is possible for someone who might be the best amateur basketball player in the world.
"Players can have rockstar status or whatnot, but I think this can be a little bit ridiculous if he lets it get to him," Self said. "He just wanted to come here and enjoy the summer, and hopefully people allow him to do that."
As Self recently reminded his 18-year-old star, all of this fanfare is directed a player who has yet to make a basket in a Kansas uniform. Wiggins might be the nation’s No. 1 recruit, but he’s also a freshman who still needs help from his roommate, senior Niko Roberts, to find his way around campus.
"He's kind of showing me the ropes," Wiggins said.
This is a new chapter for Wiggins, who spent the past year answering — or, for the most part, not answering — questions about where he would play college basketball. There is freedom, he said, in having that big decision behind him.
"Everywhere I went, no matter where I went, everyone asked where I’m going to school," he said. "It’s a big release, a big weight off my shoulders."
It won’t be long until Wiggins is hearing questions about his NBA future, if he’s not hearing them already. But Wiggins is officially a college student now, and there are things he wants to accomplish before he moves on to the next phase.
"I want to win," Wiggins said. "I want me and my teammates to go as far as we can, be the best players that we all can be and hopefully win a national championship."
Contact Austin Meek at (785) 295-1288 or @austin_meek on Twitter.