Top of the Class: Wiggins First, Embiid Third in NBA Draft
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – For the second time in Kansas men’s basketball history, a Jayhawk was taken No. 1 in the NBA Draft. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Andrew Wiggins with the first selection in the 2014 NBA Draft Thursday night at the Barclays Center.
Only two picks later, Kansas big man Joel Embiid joined him when the Philadelphia 76ers selected Embiid with the third overall selection. No two Jayhawks have ever gone as high, surpassing the 1998 duo of Raef LaFrentz (3), Paul Pierce (10).
“It means a lot to our program,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “I wasn’t surprised about Wiggins, but I was pleasantly surprised for Joel and I’m proud of them both. The No. 1 tag is special, for all of the amazing players that have played at Kansas, we haven’t had a No. 1 in 26 years. Hopefully it won’t be another 26 years. But I would’ve been just as proud of (Andrew) if he had gone No. 2.”
The duo became the 75th and 76th players to be drafted in Kansas men’s basketball history and the 17th and 18th in the Bill Self era. It also marks the 24th time – and fifth-consecutive year – that multiple Jayhawks were drafted.
Wiggins became the second-ever No. 1 selection in Kansas basketball history, joining Danny Manning in 1988. Jayhawk Wilt Chamberlain was a territorial selection in 1959 by the Philadelphia Warriors after leaving KU for the Harlem Globetrotters in 1958.
“I was nervous. It (the clock) hit zero and we had to wait another two minutes. It’s crazy.” Wiggins smiled on the ESPN broadcast. “(I plan on) just going in and creating impact off the bat, play my game and have confidence in myself. I have to believe in myself before anyone else can.”
Wiggins, from Vaughan, Ontario, Canada, was joined by head coach Bill Self at the draft and became the 30th first-round draft pick in Kansas men’s basketball history. His call-up to the professional ranks marks the fifth-straight season a Jayhawk has been selected in the first round, while the top-overall pick makes three-straight seasons that a Jayhawk has gone in the top-10 overall. Wiggins joins Ben McLemore, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Sacramento Kings, and Thomas Robinson, the fifth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, also by the Kings.
A Consensus All-America Second Team selection, Wiggins set the Kansas freshman single-season scoring record with 597 points in 2013-14, making him the second-straight Jayhawk to surpass Danny Manning’s record-setting rookie mark in 1985. McLemore broke Manning’s mark with 589 points in 2012-13 before declaring for the Draft.
The 2014 Big 12 Freshman of the Year and All-Big 12 First Team selection, Wiggins was his own highlight reel throughout the year, including a half-court shot at Baylor (2/4), the game-winning basket at Texas Tech (2/18) and a KU freshman record 41 points at West Virginia (3/8) – the first Jayhawk to break the 40-point barrier since Terry Brown scored 42 points on Jan. 5, 1991. In the Big 12 Conference Championship alone, Wiggins averaged 26.0 points per game to earn all-tournament honors.
On the defensive end, Wiggins led Kansas in steals with 41 and came in second to Joel Embiid, KU’s freshman season shot-blocking leader, with 34 blocked shots. Gifted and athletic, the combo guard pulled down 5.9 rebounds a game.Besides his 597 points, other Kansas freshman season records Wiggins set included: scoring average (17.1), field goals attempted (422), free throws made (176) and free throws attempted (227).
The 2014 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Embiid broke the KU freshman record for blocked shots with 72 and his 2.6 blocked shots per game finished second in the league. Named to the 2014 All-Big 12 Second Team, Embiid led KU with 8.1 rebounds per game – also a KU freshman record – and good for sixth in the Big 12. The 7-0 Yaoundé, Cameroon, native averaged 11.2 points per game and his 62.6 field goal percentage broke yet another KU rookie record. Additionally, Embiid was named to the 2014 Freshman All-America Team, along with Wiggins, by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).
Embiid was a two-time Big 12 Newcomer of the Week – Dec. 2, 2013 and Jan. 20, 2014 – and was named the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week and CBSSports.com National Player of the Week on Jan. 21, 2014 after averaging a double-double with 14.5 points and 10.0 rebounds to go along with 13 blocked shots in KU victories against then-top-10 opponents Iowa State (1/13) and Oklahoma State (1/18). Included was a KU freshman-record eight blocked shots against OSU.
Embiid missed the final two regular-season games and the Big 12 Championship due to a stress fracture in his lower back. He was sidelined from KU’s two NCAA Tournament contests, as well. While Embiid fully recovered from the injury and resumed basketball activities, surgery on a stress fracture in his right foot last Friday prevented him from attending the draft.
“It is different (not being in New York) with the support. I wish I could be there but I’m excited,” Embiid said in an ESPN interview from his watch party in California. “The Sixers just took me and I still can’t believe it. I started playing basketball so late and just being here means that anything is possible.”
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