Iowa State frosh Lindell Wigginton exceeding expectations
AMES — From the moment freshman Lindell Wigginton signed with Iowa State, coach Steve Prohm has tried to manage expectations for the five-star recruit.
Wigginton’s recent play has made it impossible for Prohm to keep him a secret much longer.
Wigginton has been on a tear ever since Prohm moved him away from point guard in an effort to turn take advantage of his scoring ability. Wigginton has averaged 22.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists over his last four games — a stretch highlighted by a 24-point, zero-turnover effort in a win over rival Iowa. He was named the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Week on Monday.
The Cyclones, winners of seven in a row, face Northern Iowa (8-2) on Saturday in Des Moines.
“I’m always confident. I know I can play at this level,” Wigginton said. “The last (few) games or so I’ve just felt real aggressive. And that’s what I’ve got to be to help this team win.”
Wigginton is the centerpiece of a rebuilding effort for Iowa State, which lost seven players who earned All-Big 12 recognition over the past two seasons. The hope is that Wigginton, fellow freshmen Terrence Lewis and Cameron Lard — and a four-player recruiting class ranked among the nation’s top 20 set to arrive next summer — can maintain the program’s status as a perennial contender in the Big 12.
“I don’t want to put any expectations on him. I just want him to go play and have fun and enjoy getting better,” Prohm said of Wigginton. “He’s capable (of scoring 20 points a game). He’s got the ability.”
That became obvious early in the season.
Wigginton’s breakout performance came during the finals of a tournament in South Carolina last month, when he scored 14 points with 10 rebounds in a tight win over Boise State. Wigginton scored at least 21 points in the next three games, including a career-high 28 in a drubbing of Northern Illinois, and he scored 16 in Sunday’s 20-point win over Alcorn State.
Wigginton was known for attacking the basket before coming to Iowa State, but much of his early success has come because of his ability to hit 3-pointers. Wigginton is 15 of 27 from beyond the arc in his last four games, which has helped Iowa State shore up a perceived weakness.
“I’ve just been getting in the gym a lot and putting up shots. I’ve been getting in the gym every night,” said Wigginton, who added that he was at Iowa State’s practice facility at midnight the night before the win over Iowa to work on his jump shot.
If Lard can join Wigginton as a breakout player sooner than later, Iowa State might have a chance for a solid finish in the Big 12.
The 6-foot-9 Lard didn’t arrive at Iowa State until January, but he possessed so much raw talent that many Iowa State fans had hoped he’d contribute immediately. Instead, Prohm redshirted Lard. The third-year coach has brought Lard along slowly this season — so far. Lard scored 15 points with 11 rebounds in just 19 minutes, his second double-double of the season from the bench.
“He’s made tremendous growth,” Prohm said. “I really think he can be a terrific player, not only here at Iowa State, but in the country.”