Prepared for Take-Off

Wine and Gold Tab Wiggins with Top Pick; Select Harris in Second Round
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
by Joe Gabriele
Cavs.com Beat Writer

For the second straight season, the Wine and Gold went north of the border to select the top overall pick, nabbing ultra-athletic swingman Andrew Wiggins. The high-flying two-way star was predicted by many to be the NBA’s pick before the previous NCAA season tipped off, and he fulfilled that prophecy on Thursday night.

Wiggins, who rewrote Kansas’ freshman record book in his lone season in Lawrence, joins fellow canucks – Tristan Thompson (taken No. 4 overall in 2011) and Anthony Bennett (tabbed No. 1 last June) – in Cleveland.

“We’ve always been really cool, especially me and Tristan,” said Wiggins, referring to his fellow Cavalier countrymen. “I played in the AAU circuit with Tristan and I played in the AAU circuit and at the national level with Anthony Bennett. And I think we all connect pretty good. The chemistry is already there and we all have goals that we want to accomplish and a lot of them are the same goals. So I think it’ll be pretty good.”

Going into Thursday’s Draft, the debate continued over which of the night’s two top prospects – Duke’s Jabari Parker or Wiggins – would be the first player taken. That speculation came to an end when NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Wiggins name, and the lithe swingman took the stage, donning a black-and-white floral print dinner jacket and an ear-to-ear smile.

After the smoke cleared on Thursday, Cavs general manager David Griffin – who recently completed his first head coaching search – talked about Wiggins, the first player he selected at the helm of Cleveland’s front office.

“As we said from the beginning, you’re either all the way in or all the way out and Andrew Wiggins is all the way in on Cleveland – and we’re really excited about having him,” said Griffin. “I don’t know that I talked to a player who’s more joyful with where he’s going. I know that he’s already been in contact with Kyrie Irving, who reached out to him directly and Kyrie’s really excited about having him in the mix.”

Wiggins – whose father, Mitchell, spent six seasons in the NBA with the Bulls, Rockets and Sixers and whose mother, Marita, was a track star in the 1984 and ‘88 Olympics – was named to the John Wooden All-American Team and was a Second Team All-America selection by the AP, NABC, USBWA, SI.com and Sporting News. He was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, All-Big 12 First Team, All-Newcomer Team and Championship All-Tournament Team.

In his single season with the Jayhawks, Wiggins set multiple Kansas freshman records, including scoring average (17.1 ppg), points (597), field goals attempted (422), free throws made (176) and free throws attempted (227). He led Kansas in steals with 41 and was second in blocked shots.

“I always wanted to be in the NBA, but I never really thought about being the No. 1 pick until high school,” beamed the Thornhill, Ontario native. “So once it happened, it’s like a dream come true and more.”

One of the things that separated Wiggins from his closest competition was his ability on the defensive end of the floor. At Kansas, he was often asked to guard the opponents’ toughest perimeter player and consistently rose to the challenge. He’s truly a two-way player who takes great pride in his defensive prowess.

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“My father really put that in my head that defense is one of the key things in basketball,” offered Wiggins. “You can’t be a great player without playing both ends of the floor. And that’s what I do – I really focus in, and my athletic ability helps me.”

With the Wine and Gold’s second pick on Thursday – the No. 33 overall pick – the Cavs selected Virginia guard Joe Harris.

The 22-year-old Harris was a four-year man at UVA, where he connected on the second-most three-pointers in school history (263). The 6-6, 225-pounder was a First Team All-ACC performer as a junior and was named to the Second Team as a senior. Harris averaged double-figures in each of his four years in Virginia and ranked 11th all-time in school history with 1,698 points scored.

“(Harris is) somebody we had rated very highly, much higher than No. 33 overall,” Griffin explained. “And (he’s) somebody that we believe is one of the better, if not the best, shooter in the Draft off of screens, and that’s also a big part of what David Blatt likes to do. So, from a ‘fit’ standpoint, he’s ideal. From a human standpoint, from a working standpoint, he’s everything that we want our culture to be about. (He’s) very similar to a (Matthew) Dellavedova – an overachieving, gritty kid who’s going to leave everything he has on the court.”

Wiggins went through the pre-Draft process almost completely unscathed. One of the only chinks in the armor was his perceived lack of aggressiveness at Kansas – something that David Griffin also addressed after the selection.

”I think Andrew understands that there’s another level to his game that we’re expecting him to find,” said Griffin. “And he really, really wants to achieve it. He knows he has more in the tank. And (Kansas) Coach (Bill) Self knew it as well and drove him very hard.

”But I think another component of Andrew’s passivity – if that’s the right word – is that he’s very much a team guy. Andrew’s not a ‘me’ guy, he’s a ‘we’ guy. And he was doing what needed to be done in the system that was there. They weren’t running plays for him to do his thing. He was taking what was there. And that fits us very well.”

Wiggins sounded genuinely excited to come to Cleveland – and even did a little homework on the city’s painfully long quest for a title. The youngsters have a long way to go, but the infusion of talent on Thursday night might just get the Cavaliers a little closer to that quest.

”I know some of Cleveland’s sports history,” said the Cavaliers newly-minted rookie. “I know they haven’t had a championship in a very long time – I think since the ‘60s. So I just want to build and bring something to the town, bring a championship, do something that hasn’t been done in a while.”

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