Warriors' Andrew Wiggins uses dominant NBA Finals performance to showcase 'composure' and 'unselfish character,' says his former high school coach

by 24USATVJune 17, 2022, 5:01 a.m. 16

In Game 5 of the 2022 NBA Finals, Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins was, without a doubt, the best player on the floor.

Aggressive on both ends of the floor, Wiggins did a bit of everything, finishing with 26 points and 13 rebounds as Golden State moved within one win of an NBA title with a victory over Boston. Calm as cool as ever, Wiggins remained even-keeled postgame, citing his will to win as the reason for his performance.

"I'm just trying to do every little thing to win — that's it," Wiggins told ESPN's Lisa Salters during his walk-off interview. "Whether I've got to score, defend or rebound — anything I'm asked to do on the court or to help win, I'm going to do."

MORE: How Andrew Wiggins' evolution has put the Warriors within striking distance of the title

For many, it was the first true chance to learn about Wiggins' mentality as a player but for those that know him best, it was yet another example of Andrew being Andrew — a selfless person that loves the game.

In between Games 5 and 6 of the Finals, I spoke with Gus Gymnopoulos, who coached Wiggins during his time at Vaughan Secondary School in Thornhill, Ontario. For Gymnopoulos, Wiggins' performance as a Warrior is a continuation of what he's shown throughout each stop in his playing career.

"He's gifted because he's an unselfish character," Gymnopolous told The Sporting News. "He prioritizes winning and he knows how to play the right way — he's very high IQ with his X's and O's and understanding of concepts. And that's something that is not spoken about enough."

Wiggins has long been known for his prolific offensive capabilities — he averaged a shade under 24 points per game in his third NBA season, but throughout these playoffs, his high basketball IQ and overall feel for the game have been on full display on the defensive end as well.

SN's Steph Noh made sure to highlight Wiggins' defensive feel with a series of clips on Twitter.

While Gymnopoulos began coaching Wiggins as a ninth-grader, he's known the family since the late 1990s, getting the opportunity to play against his father, Mitchell, and coach Wiggins' older brothers, Mitch Jr. and Nick. In watching Andrew's development, Gymnopoulos credited the family with helping him develop a love and passion for the game at an early age.

From his early beginnings competing against his older brothers to when he first suited up for Gymnopoulos at Vaughan Secondary in Grade 9, Wiggins has always been one of the youngest on the floor. As a 15-year-old 10th grader, he did his part to lead his Vaughan to a provincial championship.

MORE: Wiggins following in footsteps of dad in NBA Finals vs. Celtics

Gymnopoulos looks back to those moments as something that's prepared Wiggins to continue to perform on big stages.

"He always played above his age, being a second-year high school player going up against fifth-year guys and dominating those guys," Gymnopoulos recalled.

"Much like what Kawhi (Leonard) was getting praised for back in 2019 when the Raptors were winning for having that workman mentality day to day. Andrew has that. He just goes about his business."

Prior to 2022, Wiggins had played in a total of seven postseason games — five playoff games with the Timberwolves and two play-in games with the Warriors last season. Similar to how he was the youngest on the floor during the provincial championship over a decade ago, Wiggins was the only Warrior starter without Finals experience in Game 1.

Ahead of the Finals, Wiggins admitted that he would be nervous, but five games into the series, it doesn't seem like the nerves have impacted his play.

According to Gymnopoulos, there's a reason for that.

As the Warriors look to close the series out, Wiggins being true to himself may or may not equate to another 26 points and 13 rebounds, but it will guarantee that he will again do whatever it takes for the Warriors to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy, which would be another accolade for a magical season that saw Wiggins earn a nod as an All-Star starter in February.

With the accolades that Wiggins continues to earn, there's one that Gymnopoulos is most proud of.

"He's a really good person. Andrew's an amazing guy. How could you not root for such a high-character person? It makes me very proud as someone that's known him for a very long time.

Interview has been edited for clarity and length.


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