When Josiah Gustafson saw No. 22 catch the ball on the fast break, his first thought was this:
Don't get dunked on.
The former Millard North all-state guard played his first college game Tuesday night, starting for Pittsburg State.
At Allen Fieldhouse. Against the nation's top recruit, Andrew Wiggins.
Four minutes into the game, Wiggins stole the ball at half-court, took three dribbles and prepared to lift off for his first competitive bucket in front of the home crowd. Gustafson was the only thing between Wiggins and the rim.
His choices: Run for cover. Go for the block. Go for the strip. Gustafson ruled out Option 2 immediately.
“I didn't want to get on ESPN's Top 10,” he said.
He chose Option 3 — go for the strip. As Wiggins reached the free-throw line, Gustafson lunged for the ball.
“I got there just in time,” he said.
Gustafson knocked the ball away, becoming the potential answer to a trivia question 20 years down the road — Who thwarted Andrew Wiggins' first breakaway dunk at Kansas?
KU beat the Division II in-state school 97-57. But Tuesday afternoon, Gustafson was still amazed by the experience. When Pittsburg State recruited him a year ago, one of their selling points was the opportunity to open his freshman season with exhibition games at Kansas and Kansas State.
“That kind of helped me make the decision,” Gustafson said. “Who wouldn't want to go play Kansas?”
Six months after Gustafson committed, Wiggins announced he was going to play his (likely short) college career for the Jayhawks. Suddenly Oct. 29 became even bigger for Gustafson.
The crowd at Allen Fieldhouse started filling up during Pittsburg State's shootaround, “freaking out” when Wiggins walked into the gym. Gustafson came out of the locker room for official warmups and the arena was full.
In high school, he played in two state tournaments at the Devaney Center. That “wasn't even close” to Tuesday's crowd.
“The atmosphere was just insane.”
Gustafson was pleased with his performance. He finished with seven points on 1-for-6 shooting, including his own little highlight. Midway through the first half, he hit a corner 3 to cut Kansas' lead to 21-20.
“I was pretty excited when I made that one. I wanted to make one shot at least.”
Had it ended there, Gustafson would've outscored Wiggins 3-0. It did not. As the game unfolded, Wiggins got more comfortable, eventually scoring 16 points, eventually rattling the rim with an alley-oop dunk over Gustafson's teammate — it ended up on SportsCenter.
Gustafson guarded the phenom only a few times.
“Usually you get somebody who's as quick as he is and they're a little guard,” Gustafson said. “But he's 6-8.”
Next June, Wiggins will likely be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Two or three years down the road, he'll be going toe-to-toe with LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Gustafson, meanwhile, will likely be a Division II standout, chasing MIAA championships.
But for a couple hours Tuesday, they shared the same court. Gustafson will keep the memories fresh — and the game film handy.
“It was a blast. I loved every second.”