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Updated: 22nd April 2019 00:06Nova Scotia

Hoop star Lindell Wigginton aims to become 1st Nova Scotian to play in NBA

Nova Scotia basketball player Lindell Wigginton has left Iowa State University after two seasons and plans to embark on a professional career. His goal is to play in the NBA.

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'I have decided to pursue my lifelong dream and declare for the 2019 NBA draft'

Iowa State guard Lindell Wigginton dribbles the ball around Oklahoma guard Aaron Calixte in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. Iowa State won 75-74. (Alonzo Adams/The Associated Press)

Nova Scotia's Lindell Wigginton almost left the Iowa State Cyclones at the end of last season to try his hand at the NBA.

But there is no doubt at the end of his second NCAA season.

Wigginton, a guard who helped the Cyclones to the Big 12 title this season and a berth in the NCAA tournament, announced on Thursday he would leave college basketball after two seasons.

In a note on Twitter to fans of the team, he offered thanks for the "unwavering support" and the "love you've given me during my time here."

"These past two years have shown me what it means to be a part of a special university, city, and state. I could not be more blessed to … share this opportunity with everyone of you along this journey."

Talked to family, coaches

Wigginton said the decision came after discussions with his family and the coaching staff.

"I have decided to pursue my lifelong dream and declare for the 2019 NBA draft. I plan to hire an agent and test with the full intent of staying in."

Iowa State guard Lindell Wigginton reacts after making a 3-point basket during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/The Associated Press)

No player born and raised in Nova Scotia has played a regular-season NBA game.

"Most importantly, I want to thank God for putting me in the position I'm in. Without him, I wouldn't be here today," he said.

"I would also like to thank my family, my teammates and the Iowa State coaching staff as I could not have done any of this without them. I am extremely grateful for their continued support."

Wigginton averaged 16.7 points in his rookie season. That number slipped to 13.5 points in his second year, partly because of injury and partly because of a different role that saw him come off the bench for the team.

Still, Wigginton was pivotal to the team's drive through the Big 12 tournament. He was selected as the conference's sixth man of the year.

Iowa State's Lindell Wigginton, left, goes up to shoot over Oklahoma's Khadeem Lattin in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, March 2, 2018, in Norman, Okla. (Kyle Phillips/Associated Press)

'He was really, really good'

In an interview with the Des Moines Register this week, Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm said he might have mishandled Wigginton this season.

"I'll always think about, 'Hey, could I have done this different?," Prohm said. "Could I have done that different? I apologized to him at different times during the year about things I maybe could have done different or better.

"Situations are tough, at times, when you're having success. We were 18-5, 13th in the country at one time. Our chemistry was really good. I was doing what was best for the whole. Obviously, he took a sixth-man role that he embraced and did really well.

"There's a lot of things I probably could have done better with that, but I still think that at the end of the year — when you look at his stats — he was phenomenal. He was really, really good."

The Cyclones lost to Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Randy Peterson, who's been a sports reporter for the Register for 46 years, told CBC's Mainstreet that Wigginton has worked very hard to get where he is today.

In fact, when he first saw the player in Des Moines, he was practising on the court by himself.

"Lindell was in there by himself just shooting baskets. I watched him for 45 minutes before I walked up to him and introduced myself. That was impressive — the kid hadn't even started classes yet at Iowa State and he was out there shooting baskets."

Peterson said Wigginton is also an impressive shooter.

"Shooting from long range, at three-point range, which is about 19 feet, nine inches, he made 40 per cent of his shots. That's very good."

The young Nova Scotian is also adept at running the floor, rebounding and passing the ball.

"If there's one thing that Lindell needed to work on, and he still does need to work on it, it's handling the basketball sometimes he gets a little loose with the basketball," Peterson noted.

"You know he makes mistakes sometimes when he's dribbling the ball, when he's got the ball in his hands. But that's nothing that can't be that can't be fixed over time."

Youngster with a 'swagger' grows up

He added that Wigginton has matured into a well-rounded player, from the youngster with a "swagger."

"He lost a lot of that because he was he was thrown into playing with guys much older than him," Peterson recalled.

"So I saw Lindell grow as a kid that was maybe — I don't want to say really brash — but that possibly had a good swagger to him which was fine, into a guy that when Iowa State lost its last game ... into a gentleman who was bawling his eyes out in the locker room. I've seen that, and that was cool."

Wigginton became the fifth Nova Scotia player to compete in the NCAA men's tournament, joining his brother, Rodell, on that list. Rodell Wigginton played in the tournament twice for the Buffalo Bulls.

Lindell Wigginton grew up playing basketball in Nova Scotia, playing at Prince Andrew High School in Dartmouth before entering prep school in the U.S., where he became an elite college prospect.

He was part of Canada's team to win the world under-19 championship in 2017 along with Ontario's R.J. Barrett, another top pro prospect. The NBA draft will be held June 20. 

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With files from CBC Mainstreet Halifax

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