Mar 7, 2018; Kansas City, MO, United States; Iowa State Cyclones guard Lindell Wigginton (5) shoots over Texas Longhorns guard Kerwin Roach II (12) in the first half during the first round of the Big 12 Tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — It was close.
Exactly how close was Lindell Wigginton’s decision to return to Iowa State for his sophomore rather than continue through the process of early entry into the NBA Draft? It was 24 hours close.
“I kind of made it around the 29th, the day before I announced,” Wigginton told a group of media members Wednesday morning at Lied Recreation Athletic Center. “It was crazy. Everybody was messaging me asking what I was going to do. That last day, my coaches didn’t even know what I was going to do yet. I told them a little before I announced and they were happy for me. That day was crazy. It was a great experience and I loved every minute of it.”
Nobody was surprised when Iowa State’s high-flying, high-scoring point guard submitted his name into the NBA Draft without an agent after the Cyclones’ season ended in March. It has never been a secret that Wigginton’s goal is to be the first player from Nova Scotia, Canada to make it to basketball’s highest level.
It was somewhat surprising when Wigginton’s name remained the draft as the days went by and the deadline drew closer. He worked out with the Suns, Hawks, Magic, Thunder, Clippers and Lakers before being told he projected as an early-to-mid second-round pick. He took pictures with Magic Johnson and chatted with Doc Rivers. He talked to Steve Prohm almost daily but was largely on his own in the process outside of help from his Dad, Fleming Downey.
While some guys were announcing their intentions to turn pro or withdraw from the draft, Wigginton was publicly remaining silent — until just a few hours before the May 30 deadline.
“Really, I came back because if I want to be the first one from my province to make it, why not go through the whole process? I want to be a first-rounder,” Wigginton, who averaged 16.2 points per game as a freshman, said. “I want to get a chance to shake the commissioner’s hand on stage and everything. That’s kind of my reason why I came back. I want to get better also. I want to come here and win and be considered as a winner.”
Wigginton will certainly have the talent around him to make the next chapter of his Iowa State career a winning one. He has the individual talent to fulfill the goal he put forth in the press release announcing his return to school of being one of the best guards in all of college basketball.
While the goal of winning and his individual goals are in some ways exclusive, they also intersect in certain aspects.
Iowa State will need Wigginton to elevate his game as a playmaker during his second season with the program in order for the team to max out. It needs him to be a better decision-maker and eliminate some of the turnovers that prevented him from playing more at the point as a freshman.
Oddly enough, all of those points fit in pretty well with the feedback he received from NBA teams.
“I’ve obviously got to work on my weaknesses,” Wigginton said. “I’ve got to do the things NBA guys told me to do. I’ll work on those things. Always be confident. Always stay in attack mode and be aggressive. That’s the main points they were telling me. They know I can score the ball. They want to see me play make. They want to see me play make like they know I can. I’ve got everything else really.”
Wigginton can already sense a different feel with this team compared to last season’s squad that finished at the bottom of the Big 12 standings. Roster continuity is probably a pretty big piece of that when you consider Iowa State was breaking in seven (or eight if you include Cameron Lard) newcomers at this time last year.
Even without all that roster turnover, Wigginton will be looked to as a leader in 2018-19. It is cliche, but Wigginton isn’t a freshman anymore. If he wants to be one of the best guards in college basketball, he needs to lead like one for his team to reach its full potential.
This is his team now. Only time will tell if he is capable of leading it where he wants to go.
“Last year it was kind of up and down. This year, it just feels like the chemistry is a lot better right now,” Wigginton said. “We’ve got a great schedule this year so I’m definitely going to show myself.”
“I’m going to be the best player on the floor every night.”