Jan 1, 2018; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Lindell Wigginton (5) controls the ball between Texas Longhorns forward Dylan Osetkowski (21) and Texas Longhorns guard Kerwin Roach II (12) at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Each lightning-quick step propels him deeper into the paint.
Driving the basketball to the rim in the Big 12 — and, of course, finishing — requires supreme skill, confidence, and a little name recognition, as well.
And Iowa State’s five-star freshman guard Lindell Wigginton seamlessly blends all those crucial elements, so accordingly, a lot is asked of him.
The next step?
Finding consistency, beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday in one of the nation’s most intimidating and storied college hoops venues, Allen Fieldhouse.
“I’m excited,” said Wigginton, who could serve as last-place ISU’s Swiss Army knife against the No. 12 Kansas Jayhawks. “I’ve heard it’s a crazy atmosphere. I know Kansas is a great team, so I’m just looking forward to going and playing against them.”
DIscovering, and playing with, an even keel isn’t just Wigginton’s most pressing mission.
It’s a team-wide imperative for the Cyclones (9-5, 0-3), who’ve wilted late in back-to-back overtime losses to Texas and Oklahoma State.
“Our consistency’s not very good,” Prohm said. “You can say youth. I don’t want to keep talking about that all season long. It’s January now. … I’m not a big rah-rah guy because the peaks and valleys of the game are too much. So we’ve got to be more consistent. We all know that. We all have to do better.”
Much-needed improvement hinges mostly on stingier defense, both on and off the ball.
A close second?
Firing up the pace on offense on a (once again) consistent basis.
It’s no secret that when ISU can run, guard such as Wigginton, Nick Weiler-Babb and Donovan Jackson are at their best.
Jackson’s been on fire from 3-point range as of late (12 of 20 in the past two games), but both he and Wigginton must shoulder some of the transition-based load that’s almost entirely centered on Weiler-Babb right now.
“We’ve got to relieve Nick a little bit,” Prohm said. “We’re putting a lot on him. He’s got to guard the best player and then he’s got to push tempo for 38 minutes a game. Lindell and Donovan can make it easier for him at times and (we can) put Lindell in a position where we can put pressure on the basket. But the difference is, with Lindell, when he’s putting pressure on the basket, it’s — Mitchell Solomon’s a big boy in there. You’ve got presences at the rim now.”
And they’re known presences. Wigginton, despite his well-earned accolades, often has to fight through extra contact.
Call it a rite of passage. Call it unfair, even. Either way, it remains a fact of life in the nation’s best conference (again) from top to bottom.
“The deeper you get into the paint, I think, it’s harder to score at any level,” said Wigginton, who’s hit just 4 of 21 shots in the past two games. “But especially at this level, because everybody’s bigger, stronger, faster and more physical. I’ve just got to pick my spots right.”
So why not at Lawrence?
It’s clear there’s very little, if anything, that intimidates this mostly new group of Cyclones.
It’s a few plays here and there at critical times and Wigginton’s versatile and elite skill set will eventually draw him and ISU back into a winning rhythm.
“He hasn’t shot the ball well the last two games, but he’s gotten back in the gym and he’s putting time in and it will pay off for him,” Prohm said. “Whether it happens (at Kansas) or not, I don’t know, but I think it’s just a learning curve. He’ll understand what he can get away with and what he can’t.”
Once that happens, look out. Despite his recent struggles, Wigginton’s still averaging 14.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and shooting 40 percent from long range.
“He has great, great ability,” Prohm said.