Rise & Grind: What Takes Andrew Wiggins Up Another Level? What Makes Him Elite?

Andrew Wiggins has been making waves in the basketball community for years. Regarded as the top prospect on all major scouting services and by coaches and fans everywhere; while continuing to show steady improvements. Since grade 10, he’s been leaving packed gyms awe struck with his leaping ability, skill and maturity beyond his years. But what makes him special athletically? What separates his athleticism from other prospects? In this article we’ll explore 5 major athletic qualities that make Andrew Wiggins.

1.      Develops high rates of force development with very little gather

We’ve tested Andrew, as part of Canada Basketball’s Targeted Athlete Strategy and one of the athletic qualities that separate him from his peers is how quick he is able to explode from the ground on one leg with almost no gather. Hopping 3 inches higher than elite high school basketball players in our country in a time that is .350s faster, makes Andrew absolutely lethal. When we examine his jumping ability on two legs with momentum he defies gravity. Currently he jumps 45” which when combined with his length and explosive gather means his mix tapes are filled with highlight reel dunks and displays of athleticism.

Dr. Thomas Lam breaks down Andrew Wiggins' abilities using Sports Science

Dr. Thomas Lam breaks down Andrew Wiggins’ abilities using Sports Science

2.      Amazing ability to change direction and pivot with good body control

Checkout Andrew’s highlight mix tapes. Notice his ability to pivot, change direction and finish all with control. These attributes are tied to his amazing ability to produce high magnitude force rapidly and his ability to use energy while maintaining control of his body. What’s amazing is that he is able to execute these skills at his height, age, and physiological development. He will only continue to improve these abilities as he naturally develops. Imagine what sport science could do to further enhance those abilities; so young with so much potential.


3.      Incredible jump diversity

One aspect of being a great athlete means you’re multi-dimensional. Because of the previous points, Andrew is able to perform explosive movements while remaining in control of his body. This allows him to be incredibly creative, diverse, and have a huge repertoire of ways he can finish explosively.  This means he can finish on any leg or with both in transition, after a spin, drop step, or any change in direction. Most athletes don’t have the force generation capabilities which mean they can’t execute these movements. Andrew has a near complete athletic tool bag.


4.      Very reactive, he is able to distribute energy very well

Andrew is able to use energy very well. He is like an elastic band that is able to store and release energy very well. When we tested Andrew, two years ago he had high levels of standing vertical jump at 33”. But fast forward two years and ask him to jump with momentum (taking steps) and he can jump 45”. This amazing gain and discrepancy can be partly attributable to his long, lean frame that boosts long tendons making him the perfect specimen to store and release energy.

He will continue to improve these qualities because his tendon strength and his neuromuscular system will develop based on continued exposure to high powered movements. One word of caution, he will  continue to improve provided that he monitors his game and practice exposure otherwise the rate of loading will exceed his ability to recovery which means an injury – particularly Jumper’s Knee. We’ve seen this happen too many times.


5.      Movements have become automated and are well coordinated

Many athletes can dunk, but that doesn’t mean they’re ballers. The ability to produce well timed, well-coordinated movements that are specific to the game of basketball based on smart decisions separates an athlete from an “Explosive Baller”. As discussed earlier, Andrew has an incredible repertoire of explosive jumps that are well controlled, more importantly he can execute these attributes in a game. What this means is, his brain is able to process enormous amounts of information from his eyes, his joints, his ears (yes his ears because key balance organs are housed in our ears) amongst other sensory inputs and compare all this sensory information to his database of basketball movements and patterns. This enables him to make a decision and execute an appropriate movement strategy that is well coordinated, and all within a fraction of a second.

Understanding each of these attributes may hold secrets for enhancing your performance! Andrew’s athleticism makes him incredibly special. His ability to separate, get to the hoop, finish and draw attention from around the world is unmatched in our country’s history. We’ve explored 5 major athletic attributes that make Andrew Wiggins special in this post. However, what may be unrealized is many of his athletic attributes can be developed through a long term athletic development approach. His athletic qualities can be developed, but it takes time and a well-structured approach – it’s not going to happen overnight.


2 thoughts on “Rise & Grind: What Takes Andrew Wiggins Up Another Level? What Makes Him Elite?”

  1. Jackson says:

    Great piece!

    It’s these types of articles that will separate will your site from others. A lot of the time I find myself reading, rushed, and sometimes poorly written “cookie cutter” articles on your site. In most cases, I don’t learn much other than finding out how many points a player scored, where a player is playing or where he is committed too, or who won the game. Granted, all that information is important; but as a whole, Northpolehoops.com lacks the insightful, innovative articles, such as the ones at Grantland, SI.com or Zagsblog, that keeps me from returning to Northpolehoops. However, I do appreciate your hard work (it’s amazing how many events Northpole attends and how your passion for the game shines through) because there has never been a more in-depth site in Canadian hoops history. But at the same time, it could be so much more. I’m not sure if you guys are spreading yourself too thin by covering way too many levels of Canadian basketball rather than just focusing on one or two levels but providing more provocative pieces.

    These are just my thoughts so you can take them however you want to. But keep up your unparalleled passion for the game.

  2. Tariq Sbiet says:

    Thank you for your feedback, it is much appreciated. We will certainly keep this in mind and strive to be better.

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