Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Childhood and Family
Andrew Wiggins is the son of two notable athletes. His mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, was born in the Bahamas before moving to Toronto with her family at the age of nine. An accomplished track and field sprinter who attended Florida State University, she was a 21-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) All-American and eight-time champion. She won medals at the Commonwealth Games (silver in 1982, gold in 1986) and Pan American Games (1983, 1987) and made her Olympic debut at the 1984 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles, capturing silver medals in both the 4X100m relay and 4X400m relay races. She also represented Canada at the 1988 Olympic Summer Games in Seoul. In 2014, she was inducted into the Athletics Ontario Hall of Fame.
Marita met Wiggins’s father, Mitchell, at Florida State, where he was a standout collegiate basketball player and All-American honourable mention (1982, 1983). Born in Lenoir County, North Carolina, Wiggins was a member of Team USA at the 1982 FIBA World Championships, where he helped earn a silver medal. In 1983, he was selected 23rd overall by the Indiana Pacers in the NBA draft. He played in several leagues around the world during his career. Upon retirement as a player, he settled with Marita in the Toronto suburb of Vaughan, where they raised six children.
Andrew’s eldest brother, Mitchell Jr., was a star basketball player at Southeastern University in Florida. Older brother Nick was a collegiate standout at Wichita State and has enjoyed a pro basketball career in Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Macedonia, Canada and the NBA’s developmental league. The brothers also have three sisters, Stephanie, Angelica and Taya, who are also basketball players and track athletes.
High School Phenom, 2009–13
Andrew Wiggins became a household name among basketball fans across North America before his freshman high school season had even begun. In October 2009, a YouTube video titled “Best 13 Year Old in the Nation” [sic], which showcased his highlight-reel performance from an exhibition tournament in the United States, accrued nearly five million views.
“Here was a 13-year-old — six-foot-three with length and size — slam-dunking the ball in a way that even pros have difficulty doing,” said Rowan Barrett, Olympian and general manager of Canada’s senior men’s national team. “It was very clear to anyone who knows basketball that we had a phenom on our hands.”
Wiggins attended Vaughan Secondary School and led the team to a championship. In Wiggins’s sophomore season, Vaughan was nearly undefeated with a 44–1 record, the lone loss coming after Wiggins had to leave a game due to a leg cramp. On 9 March 2011, he led the school to an Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) title, scoring 25 points in the final game. In Grade 10 at the time, Wiggins was the youngest player on the team.
In 2011, Wiggins transferred to preparatory school Huntington Prep in Huntington, West Virginia. In two seasons, he averaged 23.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.7 blocks per game. Playing in the US in front of packed gymnasiums filled with scouts from the biggest college programs, Wiggins became the No. 1 ranked basketball prospect and a coveted recruit.
On 25 February 2013, Wiggins was awarded the Naismith Trophy (see James Naismith) and named the US high school player of the year, the first Canadian to win the honour. Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent his congratulations on social media, posting on his Twitter account, “Just heard the news that the best High School basketball player in the United States is Canadian Andrew Wiggins. Congratulations @22Wiggins!” Wiggins also became the first Canadian to be named Mr. Basketball USA and the Gatorade National Player of the Year.
Prized College Recruit
Wiggins did not commit to a college during his senior high school season. In the meantime, speculation was rampant. “Andrew Wiggins’s decision weighs heavily on college hoops landscape,” read a headline in USA Today. “Buildup to Wiggins choice spans years,” wrote the Herald-Leader in Lexington, Kentucky.
With much anticipation as to where he would attend college, Wiggins narrowed his choices to four programs: Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and Florida State, which his parents, Marita and Mitchell, attended and are enshrined in the school’s athletic hall of fame.
On 14 May 2013, one day before the deadline for recruits to sign with a school, Wiggins held a press conference in Huntington, West Virginia, to announce that he would attend the University of Kansas. “This was a pleasant surprise because we never had an idea which way he was leaning,” Kansas coach Bill Self wrote in a press release later that day.
Wiggins joined another Canadian basketball icon who had made the move to Lawrence, Kansas — Almonte, Ontario’s James Naismith, who not only invented basketball but also established the University of Kansas basketball program in 1898. Since then, the school had accumulated more wins than any other college program, except the University of Kentucky.
Andrew Wiggins with the University of Kansas Jayhawks.
University of Kansas
On 8 November 2013, Wiggins made his debut for Kansas, scoring 16 points and recording three steals in a win over the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He would go on to average 17.1 points per game in his freshman season and set several school records, including the most points (597), field goals attempted (422), free throws made (176) and free throws attempted (227) by a first-year Kansas player. Wiggins was named the Big 12 conference Freshman of the Year. He was also on the Big 12 All-American Team and was named a Consensus All-American (2nd team).
Kansas finished the season with a 25–10 record and entered the 2014 NCAA Tournament as the second-ranked team in their bracket. They were upset in the second round, losing 60–57 to No. 10 ranked Stanford University. Wiggins was held to four points in the loss. One week later, on 31 March 2014, Wiggins declared that he would leave college for the NBA.
NBA Rookie Season
Wiggins’s disappointing ending to his lone season at Kansas did nothing to dissuade NBA executives. On 26 June 2014, Wiggins was selected first overall in the NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, becoming the second consecutive Canadian chosen with the number one pick, following Brampton, Ontario’s Anthony Bennett in 2013.
Wiggins’s rookie season got off to an exciting start. On 11 July 2014, just 15 days after the draft, basketball superstar LeBron James announced that he would sign a new contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers — the team that drafted him in 2003 — after spending four seasons with the Miami Heat. James made the announcement in a letter that listed several Cavaliers teammates he was excited to join but curiously did not name Wiggins, leading to speculation that the 19-year-old sensation could be traded.
On 23 August 2014 — before even playing a single game for Cleveland — Wiggins was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for all-star forward Kevin Love. Wiggins became the first No. 1 pick since 1993 to be traded before playing a game with the team that drafted him. His NBA regular season debut came on 29 October 2014 and was a quiet one; he scored just six points in 18:33. But Wiggins gained momentum quickly and scored 20 or more points in 31 games during his rookie season. Taking command on a young team looking to build its roster around him, Wiggins led the Timberwolves in minutes played (36.2 minutes per game). He was the only player on the team to play in all 82 games.
On 30 April 2015, Wiggins became the first Canadian player to be named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, receiving 110 of a possible 130 votes.
NBA Career Highlights
Andrew Wiggins averaged 20.7 points per game in the 2015–16 season and 23.6 points per game in the 2016–17, which, as of 2019, are the only seasons during which a Canadian player has averaged more than 20 points in NBA history. On 13 November 2016, Wiggins scored a career-best 47 points in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers, making him the first Canadian player to score more than 40 points in a game.
On 11 October 2017, just prior to the 2017–18 NBA season, Wiggins was awarded a five-year contract extension worth US$146.5 million — the maximum amount he was eligible to receive. “Andrew is one of the best players in the NBA and he has the talent and work ethic to get even better and be a foundation for our franchise for many years,” said Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. The deal, which has an average annual value of US$29.3 million, made Wiggins the highest-paid Canadian athlete of all time.
Although he has remained one of the NBA’s most consistent players, starting every game he played in during his first five years in the league, Wiggins’s statistics regressed across the board following his contract extension. However, in the 2017–18 season he managed to lead the Timberwolves to their first playoff berth during his tenure with the team.
Canadian National Team
Andrew Wiggins has represented Canada several times in international competition, helping to secure medals on three occasions. In July 2010, at the age of 15, he was a member of Canada’s team at the FIBA Under-17 World Cup in Hamburg, Germany. He averaged 8.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game and helped win the bronze medal for Canada. Two years later, at the 2012 FIBA America’s Under-18 Championship in Sao Sebastian do Paraiso, Brazil, Wiggins averaged a team-high 15.2 points per game as Canada captured the bronze medal once more.
In September 2015, a 20-year-old Wiggins made his debut with the Canadian senior men’s national team at the FIBA America’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico City. He once again led the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game. On 11 September 2015, Canada faced Venezuela in the semifinals, losing 79–78. Wiggins played 26 minutes but scored only nine points. He was benched in the final moments of the losing effort in favour of veteran Aaron Doornekamp.
Wiggins bounced back on 12 September 2015, when Canada faced the host nation, Mexico, in the bronze medal game. Trailing after the first half, with national team icon Steve Nash cheering in the crowd, Canada came back to win the game 87–86. Wiggins scored 18 points in the game, which secured Canada’s first bronze medal on the international stage since 2001. Wiggins was the lone Canadian named to the All-Tournament team.
In 2016, Wiggins made a controversial decision to not play for Team Canada in the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. He released a statement saying, “As my third NBA season approaches, I understand my increased role with the Timberwolves and dedication to the upcoming season must have my total focus… This was definitely not an easy decision and I fully support and wish Team Canada nothing but success this summer.” Team Canada failed to earn an Olympic berth when it lost to France in the tournament final.
In 2018, with Canada eying an opportunity to reach the FIBA World Cup and a chance for the senior men’s national team to reach the Olympic Summer Games for the first time since 2000, Wiggins again declined to participate. It was reported that his decision may have been due to a rift between Wiggins and Team Canada coach Jay Triano, stemming from Triano’s benching of Wiggins in the 2015 tournament, a charge that both Wiggins and Triano denied.
Honours and Awards
- Mr. Basketball USA (2013)
- Gatorade National Player of the Year (2013)
- Naismith Prep Player of the Year (2013)
- McDonald’s All-American (2013)
- NCAA 2nd team All-American (2014)
- 1st team All-Big 12 (2014)
- Big 12 Freshman of the Year (2014)
- NBA Rookie of the Year (2015) (all-rookie 1st team)