Derrick Coleman and Andrew Wiggins: Why Potential Is a Dangerous Word by @OkoriWadsworth

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Will he be great?

Close your eyes. Reflect back, if you can, on that era of Big East basketball of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Reminisce over Chris Mullin and Walter Berry at St. John’s, Ewing, Zo and Dikembe at Georgetown, and then think about Syracuse basketball. Think about Dwayne Washington, Sherman Douglas, Billy Owens and Rony Seikaly. And realize that the player from that era who everyone, to a man, would have told you would have been the best from that era is Derrick Coleman. And yet, every time I say that name, I can’t help but wonder if he could have done more with the vast gifts that he had. Since this was a guy who called Karl Malone an Uncle Tom, I think I’m safe in assuming that answer is an emphatic yes.

And perhaps because of that, I worry about young hyped basketball players. I worried about Kevin Durant, and was proven wrong. I worried about Anthony Davis, and was proven wrong. But I worried about Marvin Williams, and I was proven right. Same with Felipe Lopez and Greg Oden. So when Andrew Wiggins, who is supposed to be the next (insert great NBA Player here), gets named to an all-American team I worry. Because the story of Derrick Coleman, and all those can’t miss prospects that somehow missed, lives within me. Can Andrew Wiggins be on the Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis tree? Let’s find out.

To be sure, in an absolute vacuum, Derrick Coleman didn’t have an awful career. All-NBA 3rd team twice, ’91 Rookie of the Year, 1-time All-Star. If that was an undrafted free agent, that’s a pretty decent little career. But Derrick Coleman was never held to the standards of an NBDL guy from Virginia Union. He was supposed to be the heir to Karl Malone and Charles Barkley; the modern power forward who would have bridged the gap between them and the stretch 4’s popularized by the game’s increasing European influence. The Nets took him expecting he would be one of the pillars of the franchise, the guy to turn the Nets from the laughingstock they had been (albeit laughingstocks with badass uniforms) into what the Knicks were when Ewing showed up and the Jazz when Malone showed up. NBA forces who you respected and who made the playoffs an annual rite of the warm months of the year. And if you judge him by that standard, he was a massive disappointment. But why you ask? Simple. Derrick didn’t want it as much as any of his peers.

Will Andrew Wiggins be that? Will he be the sort of guy we look at and always expect more from? I am not quite sure. I hope not. Maybe he’s just a guy who makes it look easy. Someone who plays hard and cares but who smolders instead of burns. The truth is, that while the NBA landscape right now is littered with a high amount of franchise players, we only have one man who can reasonably be called The One. Right now, that man is LeBron James, and because we’re greedy, as basketball fans we want another one. We want two kings just to see what would happen.

That’s a lot of pressure on a true freshman who hasn’t played a single college game at Kansas — a basketball factory producing Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Pierce, Danny Manning, Jo Jo White, and others. Maybe that’s an advantage for him that Derrick Coleman never had at Syracuse. This is a place used to hosting phenomena.

But despite that, until I see him, I’ll worry. I’ll hope I’m wrong and that my concerns were unfounded, but I’ll still worry.

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