TORONTO – Wearing dark shades and a black hoodie pulled up over his Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap, Andrew Wiggins looked like he was attempting to slip through Pearson Airport incognito.
He was anything but.
The 20-year-old from Vaughan, Ont., landed in Toronto on Saturday afternoon to some 10 cameras and a couple dozen journalists, there to capture the arrival home of Canada’s NBA rookie of the year.
Fellow travellers stopped and stared. Airport staff hollered congratulations.
READ MORE: Andrew Wiggins named NBA Rookie of the Year
Life has definitely changed since the six-foot-eight forward left for Minnesota 10 months ago. What does he make of all the attention?
“I’m always comfortable, I’m never uncomfortable doing anything, if I wasn’t comfortable doing it, I wouldn’t do it,” said Wiggins, who’s been a much-hyped prospect since he was in high school. “It’s just something I have to go through.”
Does he enjoy it?
“At times,” he said. “At times I just want to go home. You get used to it, I’ve been doing this from a young age.”
Wiggins was home to host a party for the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight — “I got a little sumpin-sumpin I’m doing,” he said, with a wide smile, a pair of gold-plated headphones dangling from one hand. He was heading back to Minnesota on Sunday.
His brief trip to Toronto came two days after he became both the first Canadian and Minnesota Timberwolves player to win rookie of the year, with a campaign that saw him put to rest any concerns about his competitive spirit en route to averaging 16.9 points and 4.6 rebounds and playing in all 82 games.
“(My phone) has been blowing up (since Thursday),” Wiggins said. “I’ve been trying to respond to the closest people to me, and I’ll try to get back to everybody, but it’s been going off.
“It means a lot,” he added, on the award. “I had a lot of goals coming to this point, to make the NBA, be the first pick, then after the first pick I wanted to be rookie of the year, so it was a list of things I wanted to achieve. And this is just the beginning.”
Wiggins hopes to can inspire other Canadian kids.
“Yeah, just always motivation and hope, and hope I can be a positive role model for them to just want to get to the point I’m at right now,” he said.
Wiggins spoke to reporters for four-and-a-half minutes Saturday before climbing into a black SUV to head into the city.
He remained mum on his plans for this summer, saying only that he’s in conversations with the Timberwolves. With Minnesota missing the playoffs — the T’Wolves finished a league-worst 16-66 — he turned his attention to the Toronto Raptors, watching their brief NBA playoff run against the Washington Wizards.
“I did, I was rooting for them,” he said.
Wiggins talked about how veteran forward Kevin Garnett took him under his wing.
“He was a big part. . . and I feel like everyone’s growth on the team,” Wiggins said. “His presence was just felt on and off the court, even the games where he wasn’t playing and he was on the bench, you still felt his presence on the court. His intensity just rubs off on you.
“(Garnett’s) lesson was probably just: you’ve got to find your pace in the game, never rush anything, it’s not a sprint it’s a marathon.”
Wiggins received 110 of 130 first-place rookie of the year votes and had 604 points. Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic finished second with 14 first-place votes and 335 points and Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel was third.