For all intents and purposes, Andrew Wiggins should be a very loud noise. The 18-year-old Canadian is six-foot, eight-inches tall with a seven-foot wingspan. He weighs approximately 200 pounds, and has a 44-inch vertical. He is the consensus number one ranked basketball recruit in North America, and is among the most hyped prospects of the last decade.
In addition to YouTube dunk montage maestros, college basketball coaches and recruiters focused themselves on Wiggins for the better part of the last two years, as he went about dominating the high school circuit as a small forward for Huntington Prep in West Virginia. The public, at least the portion that concerns itself with where high school sports stars attend college, was rabid with anticipation for the slightest hint of interest from the player.
Despite the amphitheatre of attention that this afforded the 18-year-old, Wiggins ended what seemed like an entire era of speculation on Tuesday afternoon with a whisper, or more accurately, a tweet. Avoiding the bright lights attached to television cameras and the claustrophobic conditions of a pressing media throng, the Vaughan, Ontario native quietly announced to his family, friends, teammates and a single reporter from a Huntington newspaper that he would be attending the University of Kansas next season. The rest of us would find out from the Twitter account of Grant Traylor, the one journalist with access.
In Philippe Petit’s 2002 book, To Reach The Clouds, the author writes of tightrope walkers feigning difficulty during their act in order to make what’s ordinary to them seem more dramatic to spectators. After the hours and hours and more hours of practice and training that go unseen by audiences, their actual performance is somewhat mundane. Without a speck of mid-air theatre, the marvel of their daring act would lessen.
I was reminded of this on Sunday afternoon in Hamilton, Ontario, where 17-year-old Andrew Wiggins, the most highly rated NCAA basketball recruit of the year, played in an exhibition game with his Huntington Prep school from West Virginia against a selection of regional all-stars. It was all too easy for the 6-foot-8 phenomenon from Vaughan, Ontario, whose physical gifts have combined with preparation to form an unmatched talent.
On Monday evening, South Plantation High School running back Alex Collins announced on FOX Sports South that he would be signing his National Letter of Intent to attend the University of Arkansas. Prior to this, the Florida native had committed to Miami University, but backed out of his pledge in November to consider other schools, as high school recruits are wont to do.
It was largely viewed a coup for the Razorbacks, who would be landing the top all-purpose running back in the 2013 class (according to 247Sports.com), and one of the best overall recruits coming out of Florida this year (according to Scouts.com).
There is something about failure that deserves to be celebrated. While our initial urge may be to mock those whose plans don’t come to fruition, a miscarriage of intent is hardly justification for the pointing of fingers and laughter that it too often inspires. Failure frequently represents a newly attempted process that doesn’t reach a desired outcome. Any measure of shame that might be felt because of disappointing results should be entirely wiped out by the courage displayed in venturing to accomplish something in a manner that hasn’t previously been tried.
Unfortunately, high school football phenomenon Reuben Foster committing to Alabama after previously committing to Auburn and getting a massive tattoo on the underside of his forearm to celebrate that commitment is nothing like what is being described in that first paragraph. It’s a failure of the most mockable variety.