CHICAGO -- Andrew Wiggins vs. Jabari Parker.
It was the matchup everyone wanted to see -- from college basketball fans to NBA scouts.
And, though strikingly humble, Wiggins wanted to see it, too.
Wiggins asked Bill Self if he could guard Parker, but the Kansas coach wisely avoided the matchup -- worried that the freshman phenom would rack up too many fouls.
"People have made a lot about Andrew's personality because he's so mild-mannered," Self said Tuesday night. "But he is competitive and he definitely wanted the challenge."
Of the two freshman who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated before even playing one minute of college basketball and who may be jockeying for the chance to be drafted No. 1 overall in the 2014 NBA draft, Duke's Parker had the slightly more impressive individual performance. He finished with 27 points on 9 of 18 shooting to go along with nine rebounds vs. Wiggins' 22 points on 9 of 15 shooting and eight rebounds.
"Jabari lived up to billing," Self said. "And Andrew lived up to billing late in the game."
But Wiggins won the more important battle with Kansas defeating Duke 94-83 in a marquee matchup of the State Farm Champions Classic, which helped welcome the college basketball season.
Wiggins also put the game away.
He hit a jumper with 1:30 left to give Kansas an 85-81 lead. Then off a steal and assist by Perry Ellis, Wiggins' dunk gave Kansas an 87-81 lead with 1:16 left, fouling out Parker in the process.
"Big players make big plays," Wiggins said.
The game, though, wasn't truly a mano a mano match of the two most hyped players.
Wiggins played more of a small forward position while Parker played power forward. Rodney Hood predominantly covered Wiggins and vice versa; Ellis predominantly covered Parker and vice versa. (Late in the game Parker even covered 7-0 center Joel Embiid.)
With 12:39 left in the game, there was a direct confrontation. Parker drove into Wiggins, drawing the third foul on the Kansas freshman, and hit the two subsequent free throws.
More than anything the two freshmen stars battled fouls, a result of the NCAA's new emphasis on a eliminating handchecks and more rigidly calling blocking fouls. Parker fouled out. Wiggins played only nine minutes in the first half and finished with four fouls.
"It's always hard to watch basketball," Wiggins said, "and not be in the game."
Watching these dynamic athletes on the United Center floor were the Bulls players from their respective schools. Kirk Hinrich wore a Kansas hat while Luol Deng, wearing a Duke T-shirt, and Mike Dunleavy watched from the stands.
Just two games into their college careers, it is indisputable that Wiggins and Parker will join them in the NBA. Before that they may meet again in late March in the NCAA tournament.
Could it dare compare to another rivalry?
"It's just like the Bird-Magic matchup," said Nick Irvin, Parker's AAU coach. "They're always going to be linked together."
Their high school careers basically ended the way their college careers began -- at Chicago's United Center, which also hosted the McDonald's All-American Game.
"It's funny how the schedules work out," said Rob Fulford, Wiggins' high school coach at Huntington (W. Va.) Prep.
The hype between the two was so strong that in the first meeting before the April 3, 2013, McDonald's Game, Joe Wootten, a member of the McDonald's selection committee and son of the legendary coach Morgan Wootten, instructed East coach Freddy Johnson and West coach Mike Flaherty to have Parker and Wiggins start and defend each other.
It was the matchup everyone wanted to see -- even the other players.
"When they both got the ball, it was like the action froze," said Johnson, who coaches Greensboro Day (N.C.) School during the season. "Everybody was waiting for something great to happen … Everybody kind of stood around and watched."
Wiggins and Parker covered each other on most possessions.
"Both guys took kind of pride in going right at the other one," said Flaherty, who also coaches Mount Carmel (Ill.) High.
Wiggins outplayed Parker, scoring 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting and collecting four rebounds during 24 minutes of play. Parker had 10 points and eights rebounds while shooting just 4-of-13 during 21 minutes of action.
Parker, though, may have been hurt by the poor ball movement on the Parkers' West team led by future Kentucky players, Aaron and Andrew Harrison. And while he had poorer stats, his West team defeated Wiggins' East team, 110-99.
What struck the coaches, though, is how Parker and Wiggins conducted themselves off the court.
Instead of treating the community service component as an obligation or acting as aloof teenagers, they enthusiastically engaged the children at the Ronald McDonald's House. Johnson compared their demeanor to former Duke player Shane Battier.
"My greatest memory is not what they did on the basketball court," Johnson said. "It's what they did at that house."
Because Parker and Wiggins jockeyed for elite prep status, some had labeled them as bitter adversaries.
"The funny thing is that last year everybody kept comparing Jabari and Andrew and that they were these heated rivals. They didn't like each other," Fulford said. "Truth be told: They never had really met."
Before the McDonald's Game, their teams had rarely faced each other. Brief exposure occurred when Parker's Team USA went against Wiggins, a Canadian, in international competition. On the AAU circuit, they faced each other just once in the Nike Peach Jam tournament two years ago.
That Peach Jam game had less attention because Parker was a high school junior, and Wiggins, then a sophomore, had yet to reclassify to Parker's grade. Wiggins' CIA Bounce team played Parker's Mac Irvin Fire squad last year, but Parker missed the game with a broken foot.
They hadn't spent time with each other until the January 2013 Spalding Hoophall Classic, a tournament for elite high school teams, in Springfield, Mass. Their respective teams did not play, though they hung out for about five hours during a SLAM magazine cover shoot.
The players got along so well that Fulford joked to Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel that had they known each other longer they would've played together in college.
"They're a lot like. They're both very humble," Fulford said. "They're both high character kids. "
After Tuesday night's game, the players approached each other. "I said, ‘Way to play,'" Wiggins said. "He played a great game."
But before the contest, Wiggins admitted to being nervous in the locker room.
"(The hype) was big," he said. "I just tried to block it out."
Parker came out on fire in the first half with 19 points (off four-of-five from the three-point-line), five rebounds, one assist, three steals and a block.
But Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the Simeon (Ill.) Career Academy product -- where Derrick Rose also attended -- became drained from the matchup, wanting so badly do well in front of the home crowd in just his second college game.
"He was sensational," Krzyzewski said. "He wasn't just worn out because of how the game was played. I think he was emotioned out."
Self said he did not really do anything differently as far as halftime adjustments and that foul trouble ultimately slowed Parker.
Fouls also would prove the difference in the game. Kansas made 27 of their 35 free throw attempts (77.1 percent); Duke only made 16 of 28 (57.1 percent).
"In a game like this," Krzyzewski said, "that just gives the other team life."
Although the 53 fouls called dragged down the State Farm Champions Classic, you could see the players' individual greatness of the two -- Parker's skill from three, his steal and deft maneuver for a follow-up layup.
The underlying game within the game would surface on occasion like an athletic version of Irving Berlin's song from Annie Get Your Gun: "Anything you can do I can do better … I can do anything better than you."
Less than a minute into the second half, Duke point guard Quinn Cook launched an arcing pass to Parker, who threw down a one-handed jam. The alley-oop drew audible oohs from the Chicago crowd.
About four minutes later, freshman Wiggins answered with his own alley-oop from point guard Frank Mason.
Giving Kansas a 66-65 lead with 8:39 left, Wiggins followed up his own miss with an instant put back, showing his extraordinary leaping ability.
"What sort of separates him from the other guys is that his second jump is unbelievably quick," Fulford said.
Tuesday's game was a case of divided loyalties for Fulford. Since the days of Bobby Hurley, he has cheered for Duke.
"I never go away from my players," said Fulford before the game. "Although I'm a Duke fan, I'm going to be rooting for Kansas."
Such a mix of emotions, though, likely will not be a frequent occurrence for Fulford. Parker and Wiggins don't appear to be long for the college game.
But their battles should continue in the NBA.
"These are two guys that really have a chance to kind of extend the rivalry," Flaherty said, "where it becomes kind of the marquee matchup certainly at the college level and maybe beyond."
-- Follow Jeff Fedotin on Twitter @JFedotin.
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