Monday was a day to celebrate for the Kansas basketball program, even if the season never came close to ending the way everyone associated dreamt of. It was day to bid farewell and to wish the best to Andrew Wiggins, who officially declared for the NBA draft.
Wiggins, who shocked many by choosing Kansas a year ago, ended a year that was a genuine love affair between he and the Jayhawk fans. With his announcement comes the anticipation of possibly being the top overall pick in June's draft.
"It wasn't an easy decision because the fans show me so much love here. My teammates, it's just fun being around them and the coaches, and it's fun playing in Allen Fieldhouse," Wiggins said. "I wish I just had more time. College goes by so fast. I can see why people stay all four years. I just want to thank everyone for being here and thank you for supporting my decision."
Though only a freshman, Wiggins led Kansas in scoring with 17.1 points per game and set the Kansas freshman single-season scoring record with 597 points in 2013-14, making him the second straight Jayhawk to surpass former Kansas great Danny Manning's record in 1985. Ben McLemore broke the record last season with 589 points scored.
Some will talk about Wiggins' final game at Kansas, where he scored four points in an NCAA Tournament loss to Stanford, but in doing so, they'll forget many highlights that filled stat sheets and entertained many, as the Jayhawks capture a 10th consecutive Big 12 championship. His impact on the program will have lasting effects that are just beginning.
"Well, obviously, although it didn't end the way we all had hoped it would, we won another league championship and that would have been very difficult to do without Andrew's presence," head coach Bill Self said. "He impacted our performance on the court in a big way. Sometimes, I think, when you're here a short period of time, not everybody gets a chance to know him the way that we all know him -- what you see is what you get. He's a humble, unselfish, team-first guy. I think that he's been an unbelievable ambassador for our program and will continue to be a great ambassador for the years moving forward."
"He really has been a blessing to coach, and I think all our coaches would say that. Certainly, all the teammates would say he's been great in the locker room. He's impacted us in a big way; I do think when you recruit a player of his caliber that comes in with as much hype as he's had and handled everything as well and beautifully as he has - considering all the hype - I think it certainly should bode well for us in him helping us recruit others, as well."
Wiggins mindful of his own legacy, says he will be a Jayhawks for life and knows that despite spending just one year in Lawrence, this is only the start of great things.
"I'm just confident that I'm ready," Wiggins said. "It's always been a big dream of mine to follow in my father's footsteps and play at the highest level of basketball."
The partnership between Wiggins and Kansas was a successful one, even if the end result wasn't what everyone envisioned. With this year, Kansas gained a remarkable talent and an ambassador for its program wherever the future takes him. For Wiggins, it was a unique opportunity to be part of something special and if the system were different, it's something he would have loved to last longer. In the end, there are no regrets, only gratitude.
"I'm grateful that I chose this school," Wiggins said. "They've shown me nothing but love. My teammates are like my brothers now. The coaches let me play my game; they did nothing but show me love, too, and made me feel comfortable. The fans were crazy. If I could do it all over again, I would."
"You can," Self joked to a room full of laughter. "You haven't signed anything yet, have you?"