Scrappy ISU rookie credits his teammates
AMES, Ia. — Reporters surrounded Lindell Wigginton before practice Monday afternoon. They peppered him questions about possibly becoming the first Iowa State freshman since Marcus Fizer to score 20 points or more three games in a row. They asked how he benefits from Nick Weiler-Babb moving to the point — and what part that plays in uncanny three-point shooting as of recent.
And then there was this:
What are you anticipating your emotional temperature to be while playing in your first Cy-Hawk game?
“I can’t even imagine how loud it’s going to get in there, (but) I’ll be fine,” he said with the same confidence that he rises to shoot three-point baskets. “I don’t really get too hyped.”
The Cyclones’ star rookie has played overseas. He helped a Team Canada win an international tournament last summer.
He hasn’t, however, played in something like what will unfold starting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hilton Coliseum.
“I heard from a lot of people that it’s going to be crazy,” he said. “I’ve never played in anything like that. I’m just focused on the game; I’m not bothered on the hype part.”
You buy it?
Weiler-Babb is isn’t so sure.
“It’s what you do as a freshman — you get your first glimpse of a game like this,” the junior said. “The fans are crazy. You have to let (the Cy-Hawk rookies) do their thing — get their jitters out — then everything will settle down to who’s the better team.”
WIGGINTON: The shooter
With all the tall players Iowa can use, a favorable Iowa State outcome Thursday night could depend on long-range scoring — from players including Wigginton.
He’s a 46 percent shooter from three-point range through the Cyclones’ 5-2 season. He’s 13 of 26 since Weiler-Babb moved to the point.
“He’s taking better shots,” coach Steve Prohm said. “Also, he’s getting more comfortable at taking shots.”
Iowa State is 5-0 since Weiler-Babb became the point guard — since Donovan Jackson and Wigginton became freer to run the floor.
“Nick’s been great,” Wigginton said. “He gives up open shots when he sees one of us open for a three-pointer.
“That’s where I get my confidence — Nick being confident in me, enough to give up his own open look.”
WIGGINTON: The confident
“He’s got a swagger, Prohm said. “He thinks he’s good, and he should think he’s good. Now you have to prepare like that every day.”
That’s how good becomes better. It’s how Monte Morris, Georges Niang, Matt Thomas, Naz Mitrou-Long and others went from solid players to collecting the professional checks they now earn.
“I’m in the gym every night, getting up extra shots,” Wigginton said. “My teammates keep me confident. My coaches keep me confident.”
He has regular video review sessions with Prohm. That’s similar to the sessions Prohm had with other very good guards he coached — like Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne at Murray State, and like Morris for his final two seasons at Iowa State.
“Lindell is going to be really good,” Prohm said. “He’s going to have ups and downs. He’s going to have to play through mistakes.”
He’s been so up, that he can be just the third Iowa State freshman to score 20 or more points three times in a row. Another 20-point game Thursday — to go along with the 21 he scored against Western Illinois and the 28 scored against Northern Illinois — puts him in the same conversation as Fizer and Ron Harris.
He’ll have to be close to that Thursday night, if Iowa’s height prevents the Cyclones’ inside scoring.
And speaking of height, the Hawkeyes have so much of it that 10 players stand 6-foot-7 or taller. Don’t be surprised when the 6-2 Wigginton finds himself sometimes guarding someone seven inches or so taller.
“I feel like I can hold my own,” Wigginton said. “I don’t really care who I go up against, I’m going to hold my own.
“I’ll be aggressive on them. I’ll use my athleticism.”
WIGGINTON: The talker?
Don’t expect Wigginton blowing kisses to opposing fans — like Georges did awhile ago in Iowa City. Remember last season when Morris said the best team didn’t win after Iowa’s 78-64 Cy-Hawk victory, also in Iowa City?
“I just stay humble and quiet,” Wigginton said. “I’m just looking to have fun.”
In that sense, Thursday night could be a blast.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @RandyPete.
Source: Des Moines Register
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