Steve Nash is a fan, man.
The all-time great Canadian point guard – raised and schooled in Victoria and Saanich, – offered his praise to rising phoenix Andrew Wiggins, the Toronto kid who's in the middle of a should-be award-winning first season with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves.
"Andrew's been phenomenal," Nash said Monday. "He's very young, he has a bright future, and his rookie season's been incredible. I don't think people understand what a jump it is from college to the pros, and sometimes how difficult it can be to be in a position he's in, where he's asked to do a lot, play a lot, and kind of grow on the fly like that."
Nash said he keeps in pretty constant contact with all of the national team's young stars.
"It's such an amazing place we're in, as a country in the sport," Nash said. "So much young talent, and more to come. They're all doing so well, and most importantly the great majority – if not every one of them – is getting better.
"That's exciting to see, is that guys, whether you can see it in public yet or not, are improving."
Nash, who played his college ball at Santa Clara, will miss the entire 2014-15 season after suffering a potentially career-ending back injury last October. Nash is 41 – the legacy he's left is cemented and bronzed. But Wiggins, at half his age, is the north's future.
Yesterday was Wiggins's 20th birthday, which he spent guarding James Harden. It went well.
The Wolves lost, but Wiggins led the way in vain with 30 points and six rebounds, another stellar performance in a freshman year where he's averaged 15.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and almost 35 minutes a night through 55 games played.
"I would have thought it would be very fair of him to make a ton of mistakes (in his first season), for it to be really awkward, and he's just been incredible," Nash said. "Definitely a testament to his ability."
Success of any kind this year would have shut up the kid's doubters – after he was drafted first overall, the Cleveland Cavaliers shipped him and fellow Canuck Anthony Bennett to Minnesota for Kevin Love. No love there, reportedly at the request of the Cavs' loved-again LeBron James, who transferred back to Ohio from Miami last summer.
And Wiggins had been knocked by scouts and analysts, who believed 'the jumper was suspect'. That sort of became a conventional fact dogging Wiggins, that he couldn't shoot from the floor and was more of an athlete than he was an NBA regular.
But to-date, Wiggins hasn't just been satisfactory – he's proven himself worthy of the No. 1 overall pick.