Last fall, five-star guard Lindell Wigginton’s cell phone was constantly buzzing. It was Steve Prohm. The next day, Steve Prohm again. A few hours later, Iowa State assistant Neil Berry was on the line. The next day: Steve Prohm … again.
Then both Iowa State coaches would randomly show up at the Oak Hill Academy – sometimes twice a week.
Dedication: On and off the court, that was the key to landing a stud recruit at the level of Wigginton, who chose Iowa State over the likes of Oregon, Baylor, Texas, Arizona, Arizona State, Louisville, Virginia Tech, UConn, Tennessee and Georgia last fall.
At Iowa State, it takes a team effort to secure a player of this magnitude. It began with Prohm (with an assist to Berry), but everybody from Jamie Pollard to Naz Mitrou-Long and Donovan Jackson played a significant role.
Last week, in a lengthy phone interview with CycloneFanatic.com, Wigginton, a 6-foot-1 guard out of the Oak Hill Academy, opened up about his decision to attend Iowa State.
It all began with the head coach.
Recruitments usually begin with an assistant coach who does the legwork to get a school in on a prospect. Wigginton’s process was different. According to Wigginton, no other head coach put in the time that Prohm did with him, and it wasn’t even close.
“Coach Prohm made it a point that he was going to recruiting me like no other head coach,” Wigginton, who averaged 20.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game as a senior, said. “They really just showed me not only how much they needed me, but want me. They came up every week, sometimes a couple of times a week, just to show that they really need me. During that process, I got really comfortable with him. No other head coach did that for me.”
(It is notable that we have recently read reports that Prohm has recently taken this type of approach with Shakur Juiston, the top-ranked JUCO in the country who is set to decide between Iowa State, Kansas, UNLV and Rhode Island in the coming weeks.)
Prohm isn’t shy about his love (perhaps the more appropriate word is “obsession”) with point guards. He often references his two point guards from Murray State – Cameron Payne and Isaiah Canaan – who are both currently in the NBA. Monte Morris is going to get drafted in June.
In order to really flourish, the point guard/head coach relationship has to go beyond basketball. We recently saw this with Prohm and Morris. It took a while for that pair to fully click, which made sense considering Morris played the first two years of his career under Fred Hoiberg. Morris played the best basketball of his career when completely on the same page as Prohm.
Wigginton, a Steve Prohm guy from day one, is feeling the love. He isn’t even on Iowa State’s campus yet and the trust needed for this duo to succeed is already there.
“We wouldn’t even talk about basketball,” Wigginton said about his calls with Prohm. “Just life, personal stuff. We built that relationship. Off the court, I can talk to him about anything. He was like a second dad for me when I needed to talk. Going there, if I am having a bad day or something, I have someone I can talk to.”
The basketball fit is there too.
“Coach Prohm lets his guards go,” Wigginton said. “I’m a guard who likes to go. It fits.”
The official visit
Did you know: Jamie Pollard is often times an important piece of Iowa State’s recruiting pitch when top prospects step foot on campus. A one-on-one meeting with Pollard leaves more of an impact on some prospects than others, but really blew Wigginton away.
“I have never met an athletic director like him,” Wigginton said. “Even when I left, the athletic director checked on me. You don’t really see that anywhere else. It made me comfortable.”
When you talk to Wigginton, you immediately notice that he is a humble young man. Flashy 5-star ratings don’t impress him much. Neither do blue bloods, warm winters or national championship banners. For Wigginton, finding the right fit was key, which is why Iowa State ultimately won out.
“I could have played at any school in the country but I don’t care about the name,” Wigginton said. “I wanted to go to a place where it fit me and where they are going to love me at. When I went on my visit, I felt like it was home.”
Here’s a nod to Naz Mitrou-Long. Wigginton’s older brother is a longtime friend of Mirtou-Long’s. Wigginton and Mitrou-Long are also both Canadian, which formed an immediate connection between Iowa State’s past and future.
“Naz is my boy,” Wigginton said. Him and my brother had a relationship before he even knew me. He just took that relationship on. He looks at me like a little brother. He was always texting me up and hitting me up before I got there. He basically showed me everything.”
The next step: Where Wigginton fits in
Let’s get this out of the way: Wigginton will be an immediate starter from the day he steps on campus.
This however will not be be similar to the situation that Donovan Jackson stepped into last year, when three of the most successful guards in Iowa State history – Monte Morris, Naz Mitoru-Long and Matt Thomas – cluttered the backcourt.
Iowa State just graduated 83 percent of its scoring from last year’s Big 12 Tournament championship team. Ready or not, this program is about to face a shift in identity. Wigginton, who says that Mitrou-Long and others have made him well aware of the six year NCAA Tournament streak, will not have the luxury of being slowly worked into the program.
“Everybody tells me that I have to keep the trend going but I don’t feel the pressure,” Wigginton said. “That’s what I am expected to do. Naz has been preaching it to me.”
Lately, Wigginton has frequently heard from Donovan Jackson. The two future backcourt mates FaceTime each other often, discussing their plans to carry the torch.
“He just says that when I come in, he’s gonna push me and I am going to push him,” Wigginton said. “He knows what I can do.”
Wigginton, with the rest of Iowa State’s 2017 class, will arrive on campus in June.
To get a a player the caliber of Wigginton, all of the pieces have to come together. To win in Ames, it takes a village. Iowa State’s hard work, due diligence and the collaboration of Cyclones past and present combined to (hopefully) secure the future.
Lindell Wigginton is ready to get to work.