Wine and Gold Welcome for Wiggins

David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Following one of the biggest nights of his young life, the newest Cleveland Cavalier arrived at what will be his work office for the foreseeable future. Very soon, he’ll been sweating it out with his teammates under the tutelage of new coach, David Blatt, at the Cleveland Clinic Courts. But on Friday afternoon, it was all about a warm welcome for the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft – Andrew Wiggins.

Wiggins played one season at Kansas, wrecking the freshman record books before declaring for the Draft. And after a months-long debate over whether he, Jabari Parker or his former Jayhawk teammate, Joel Embiid, would be taken No. 1 overall, the choice came down to the uber-athletic Ontarian.


Joined by his family members – including mother and father as well as his sisters, Tia and Angelica, as well as his brother, Mitchell Jr. who, according to the Elder Wiggins, actually has the best vertical lift in a family full of world-class athletes. He was flanked by Coach Blatt and Cavaliers GM David Griffin.

”Andrew is a player we couldn't be happier to have here for many, many reasons,” said Griffin – who hired his first head coach and tabbed his first Draft pick as the GM of the Cavs this week. “Primarily because he's a two way player who has the potential to really exhibit greatness on both sides of the floor, and he's going to be as good as he works himself to be. I think we've really come to understand that Andrew is driven to be truly special.

“And I think one of the things that mattered more to us than anything else in this process is that he wants to be truly special in the city of Cleveland. He's all the way in on this team, the direction of this team and where we're going as a city, and that spoke to us at a very guttural level.”

Before Wiggins fielded some questions from the assembled media, he, Griffin and Blatt took a moment for the photo-op with his Cavaliers jersey No. 21. (No. 22, which belonged to the great Larry Nance, obviously, hangs in the rafters of The Q.)

As most fans know by now, Wiggins is the scion of some pretty accomplished athletes in their own right. His father, Mitchell, was the 23rd overall pick of the Pacers in the 1983 Draft. His mother, Marita, is the co-Canadian record holder in the 400 meters and the Canadian record holder in the 200 meters. She competed in both the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.

It’s somewhat obvious – for those old enough to remember his father’s playing days – what traits he picked up from his dad. Wiggins responded when asked about what he took from his mother’s side.

“I got a lot of different things from my mother,” said Andrew. “On the mental point of view, I got a lot of just toughness, a lot of things to be aware of my surroundings, know where I'm at and, from the athletic point of view – I think I got a lot of stuff from my legs, my speed, my jumping ability and just my fast metabolism. I can really eat whatever right now and stay thin.”

Wiggins cracked up the crowd when asked about his dad’s claim that Andrew never beat him on the backyard basketball court.

”He never lost because he stopped playing when he got older,” laughed the league’s newest No. 1 pick.

One of the things that appealed to teams – and certainly the Cavaliers – was Wiggins’ willingness and ability on the defensive end of the floor. When asked what some of his goals were as an NBA rookie, he listed the All-Defensive Team as one of them – something that’s slightly uncommon for a 19-year-old entering the Association.

”It all started when I was young, my father always really emphasized that fact,” explained the 6-8, 200-pounder. “Everyone knows that defense wins games. I really took it personally. I tried to set goals every game about the person I'm guarding and just trying to lock them up. I don't like when my man scores – even when I'm on the bench and he scores, that makes me mad. So it's always been a big priority of mine.”

That was music to Coach Blatt’s ears, and the Wine and Gold’s new bench boss spoke glowingly of his team’s newest weapon.

”One of Andrew's greatest qualities is that he can play both ends of the court – and there's always minutes for a guy that does that,” said Blatt. “I think any team and any great player has to have four things. It starts with character, and obviously and based on what Griff told you, and we did more than just a little bit of homework to find out what a young man this guy is. The second one is quality. Anyone who understands anything about basketball recognizes the great quality in Andrew's game. The third thing is coaching, which is my responsibility to put him in the situation, put him in the positions on the floor where he can be successful he'll help me by holding down his end on the other side so that keeps him out there. Finally is continuity. We didn't bring Andrew in here for a year. This isn't a one and done; this is a career player. And we're thrilled to have the opportunity to work with him.”

Following the live presser in Independence, the Cavaliers second-round selection – Virginia guard Joe Harris, taken with the No. 33 overall selection – spoke briefly with reporters via the phone from his hometown of Chelan, WA.

Harris was a four-year player at UVA and played in more games (135) than any player in Virginia Cavalier history. The 22-year-old drained the second-most treys in school history (263) and was a First Team All-ACC performer as a junior. He averaged double-figures in each of his four years in Virginia and ranked 11th all-time in school history with 1,698 points scored.

“I have a lot of confidence in my game,” said Harris. “You obviously don’t know until you get in that situation and you’re playing against guys of that caliber day-in and day-out, but as far as I’m concerned I’ve always had confidence in my ability to shoot the ball, my ability to move without the basketball and create space for myself. So obviously, it will be an adjustment, but I’m really looking forward to trying to improve as much as possible between now and Summer League and from Summer League to Training Camp.”

The Cavaliers got a huge infusion of young talent on Thursday night – and they’ll join some of Cleveland’s other young bucks when Summer League tips off in Sin City in just over two weeks.