Andrew Wiggins announced on Monday, March 31st that he will enter the NBA draft. (Photo: KU Athletics/Twitter)
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Head coach Bill Self made the crowd laugh, every Jayhawk had their moment on stage and Andrew Wiggins capped his KU career with the Danny Manning “Mr. Jayhawk” Award at the 2014 Kansas men’s basketball banquet Tuesday night.
Wiggins’ prestigious honor, the only award given at the annual banquet, highlighted an already highlight-reel night. The Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year and his teammates sat down to dinner, surrounded by coaches, family, staff and fans. Legendary play-by-play radio voice Bob Davis emceed the festivities, welcomed the crowd and turned the microphone over to Athletics Director Dr. Sheahon Zenger.
“This is a very sought after event,” Zenger said. “When the night’s over, you will know why.”
Zenger was correct as the evening unfolded to be a remarkable recap of the season, in which every player, coach, staff member and supporter felt included in the success of the 2013-14 campaign. After a quick welcome, former All-American Wayne Simien delivered the convocation. Dinner and a memorable game-by-game video followed before Davis introduced the main speaker of the night, coach Self.
Kansas finished the year with a 25-10 record, marking the 10th-straight year that the Jayhawks chalked up 25 or more wins. On Tuesday night, however, another ‘10th-straight’ achievement took precedent as the team celebrated its 10-consecutive Big 12 Conference regular-season titles. The league championship marked KU’s 57th all-time, a feat no other school in the NCAA can claim.
“When we think about losing the guys that we lost last year, then to have so many new guys or guys with different roles, then to play the hardest schedule since the RPI came out – and these guys still won the league with three games left,” Self said. “We should be very proud of these youngsters. I know that I’m very proud to be their coach.”
By March 1, Kansas had locked up sole possession of the Big 12 title. In a streak so rare, searching for the most notable piece may be difficult, but for the third time in Bill Self’s 11 years in Lawrence, Kansas won the Big 12 title without a single starter returning from the previous season. The Jayhawks went on to earn their 25th-straight bid to the NCAA Tournament, also the best-active streak in the nation.
“It was a remarkable accomplishment and a great run,” Self said. “Of course the season ended prematurely. In basketball and in life, there is not much room for error. But, when we were home and we were playing good, I really thought we were the best team in the country.”
Self took time to congratulate Wiggins and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Joel Embiid, on their decisions to enter the NBA Draft and reminded the duo and the crowd that they can always be proud to have Kansas associated with their names.
The Danny Manning "Mr. Jayhawk" Award concluded the night, an award presented annually to recognize the most influential players on and off the court for KU. Wiggins became the first freshman since Brandon Rush in 2006 to earn the coveted team honor. At that time, it was still named the Dr. Forrest C. “Phog” Allen Most Valuable Player Award before taking Manning’s namesake in 2007.
“He handled all of the hype with such grace and class in a situation that certainly wasn’t easy,” Self said of Wiggins. “He never blinked. He did an unbelievable job – of course, he also averaged 17.5 points per game.”
The Toronto native set the Kansas freshman single-season scoring record with 597 points in 2013-14 and was his own highlight reel, 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. Not surprisingly, all of the above made the season highlight montage.
By season’s end, Wiggins and the rest of the KU starting lineup were named to the 2014 All-Big 12 Team. The Jayhawks spent 12 weeks in the top-10 of the national polls and ended the 2013-14 campaign ranked seventh nationally in both field goal percentage (49.3) and rebound margin (+7.5).
Following the ceremony, the Jayhawks stayed for pictures and autographs with the fans, none in much of a hurry to end the evening.