CHAPEL HILL — Who knows what kind of effect, if any, it has had on his son’s recruitment. But Mitchell Wiggins, the father of Andrew Wiggins, grew up outside of Kinston dreaming of playing for Dean Smith. Apparently, though, Smith didn’t show the elder Wiggins much interest.
North Carolina is certainly interested in Andrew Wiggins, who will announce his college decision on Tuesday. About 30 years ago, Wiggins’ father would have loved to be in the position his son is now – with a chance to play for the Tar Heels.
According to this story by a wire service, published on Jan. 16, 1984 (and discussed earlier today here by Bret Strelow of the Fayetteville Observer), Wiggins during his junior season at North Lenoir High played well in front of Smith. But Smith left without speaking with Wiggins.
Said Wiggins, in the story:
“Dean Smith came and saw me play and I think I had 38 points that night. He never came down and saw me after the game. Later on I found out he didn’t think I was good enough to play for him. I knew then that I couldn’t have somebody who didn’t know about the ambitions I had dictate my life to me. I knew I had some talent.”
After a spending a season at Truett-McConnell junior college to raise his grades, Mitchell Wiggins wound up at Clemson. He was the team’s sixth man for a time but then, not long before the start of Wiggins’ junior season, coach Bill Foster kicked him off the team.
According to the story:
“A week and a half before his junior season was to begin, Foster called Wiggins into his office and told him he had discovered Wiggins was smoking marijuana in his room … ‘I was totally shocked,’ Wiggins said. ‘I’m the type of guy if I have a couple of beers, that would put me out. I was like a momma’s boy. Here I’d been busting my fanny every day in practice and this happens. I asked him what he was talking about and he (Foster) told me a lady had told him all about me smoking. I always thought a coach was supposed to stick by his players, but he didn’t. He told me I was off the team. I asked him if I could come back the next morning and talk to him. I wanted a second chance. Well, when I came back the next day I was still kicked off the team. I respect Foster for doing what he thought was right, but the fact that he didn’t even check out any of it was ridiculous. When I walked out ofo his office a couple of his assistant coaches were laughing about it. They told me I’d never play in the NBA and I’d never even find another college to go to.’”
That was incorrect, of course. Wiggins eventually found his way to Florida State, then a member of the Metro Conference. He was runner-up for conference player of the year honors before the Chicago Bulls engineered a draft day trade for him (involving Sidney Lowe) in the 1983 draft.
Though Andrew Wiggins has offered few clues – no clues, really – about his recruitment and which school he might be favoring, Florida State appears to have emerged as the favorite. Who knows how things might be different today, though, had Smith have shown some interest all those years ago in Wiggins’ father.