Go Search Go Contents Go to bottom site map

(Yonhap Interview) Rising NBA star Andrew Wiggins eyes championship for T'Wolves

2017/07/23 13:59

Article View Option

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, July 23 (Yonahp) -- With his Minnesota Timberwolves having made a few offseason moves to strengthen their roster, rising star Andrew Wiggins has set a high bar for himself and for the upstart team -- a National Basketball Association (NBA) championship.

Wiggins, the 2014-2015 NBA Rookie of the Year, is visiting Seoul on a summer corporate tour with Adidas. In a group interview on Sunday during his first trip to South Korea, Wiggins said he was looking forward to playing with new teammates with All-Star pedigree -- forward Jimmy Butler and point guard Jeff Teague.

Butler joined the T'Wolves in a trade with the Chicago Bulls, while Teague signed as a free agent. Together, they'll form a strong starting five alongside Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, the 2015-2016 Rookie of the Year, and another new face, forward Taj Gibson.

The talent level is enough to convince Wiggins, 22, that a championship is in the offing for a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004.

When asked if he agreed with the popular preseason prediction that the Golden State Warriors will win their second straight title in the 2017-2018 season, Wiggins simply said, "No."

   "I am going to make sure we're going to win," he said. "We have a great team, a great coaching staff, great fans. We're going to work hard toward (the championship)."

  

In this photo provided by Adidas Korea on July 23, 2017, Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the National Basketball Association speaks to reporters in a group interview at a Seoul hotel. (Yonhap) In this photo provided by Adidas Korea on July 23, 2017, Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the National Basketball Association speaks to reporters in a group interview at a Seoul hotel. (Yonhap)

Wiggins, a Toronto native, was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in June 2014, and was dealt to the Timberwolves two months later. He then earned the NBA's top rookie honors after averaging 16.9 points per game and grabbing 4.6 boards per game.

He improved his scoring to 20.7 points per game the following season. Last season, Wiggins scored a career-best 23.6 points per game to rank second on the team behind Towns, while adding 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

The Timberwolves won just 16 games in Wiggins' rookie year, but improved to 29 the next season and reached 31 wins this past season.

Now comes Butler, a top-15 scorer who has made NBA's All-Defensive Second Team in three seasons. Teague has eight NBA seasons under his belt and averaged 15.3 points and a career-high 7.8 assists per game last season with the Indiana Pacers.

"We all want to win. We're all unselfish players," Wiggins said of his team. "All the chemistry is going to build every day in practice. I think it'll be best for all of us."

   Wiggins doesn't have much connection to South Korea, though he could have had a few.

His alma mater, the University of Kansas, competed as the United States representative at the 2015 Summer Universiade in Gwangju, some 330 kilometers south of Seoul, and won the gold medal. Wiggins could have played on that team if he'd stayed in college for one more season, though he was such a highly touted prospect that the NBA was really the only way for him to go.

Wiggins' older brother, Nick, entered the foreign players' draft for the Korean Basketball League last week. The 26-year-old, who has played professionally in Macedonia and Australia, didn't get picked by any KBL team.

In this EPA file photo taken on March 15, 2017, Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves (R) drives past Jae Crowder of the Boston Celtics during their National Basketball Association game at TD Garden in Boston. (Yonhap) In this EPA file photo taken on March 15, 2017, Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves (R) drives past Jae Crowder of the Boston Celtics during their National Basketball Association game at TD Garden in Boston. (Yonhap)

"It wasn't for him, and he'll go find a better opportunity somewhere else," the younger Wiggins said.

During Andrew Wiggins' stay in Seoul, the Timberwolves said they were working on a contract extension for their young forward. He's eligible to sign a deal worth nearly $150 million over five years, which would lock him in as a franchise cornerstone. Wiggins would have to agree to such a deal before the start of the 2017-2018 season, and the new deal would kick in for the 2018-2019 campaign.

Wiggins said he'd love to remain with the Timberwolves for the long run.

"Minnesota is where home is, and they gave me a chance," he said. "I've grown with them."

   Aside from winning a championship, the young forward said his personal goal is to make an All-Star team. And to that end, he said he wants to improve at "everything."

   "You have to keep improving," he said. "Jump shot, ball handling, defense, rebounding... Everything to take the game to the next level."

   jeeho@yna.co.kr

(END)

angloinfo.com