AMES — It took Iowa State’s Lindell Wigginton some time to get used to coming off the bench after his foot injury.
Wigginton was the Cyclones’ best player last season as a freshman, but injured his foot in the first game of this season.
Wigginton’s roommate, Tyrese Haliburton, said the sophomore from Nova Scotia, Canada, was trying to regain his old form all at once when he first came back from the injury. It wasn’t quite that easy and Wigginton struggled to recover from the injury and struggled to get used to coming off the bench for the first time in his life.
When No. 20 Iowa State plays Baylor on Tuesday at Hilton Coliseum, Wigginton will continue to come off the bench, but he’s figuring out how to be the sparkplug Iowa State needs.
Over the last six games, Wigginton is averaging 17 points per game and his 3-point shooting percentage has gone from below 33 percent to essentially 40 percent — where it was last season. In those six games, he’s averaged 24.3 minutes — basically starter’s minutes.
“I knew I was going to get back there at some point,” Wigginton said. “My shooting stroke didn’t just leave me.”
Coach Steve Prohm is proud of the way Wigginton has handled himself.
“It speaks to his character,” Prohm said. “He’s a tremendous kid, he’s great in the classroom. In the two years that I’ve coached him, I’ve never had anybody call and say that he’s missed a class. Never. Not one time. That’s not always the norm. Most people have a hiccup here and there. I’ve never gotten a call like that about him. He handles himself the right way so that speaks volumes about his character. That’s allowed him to be able to weather some storms.
“Everything hasn’t been perfect, whether it’s been decisions that I’ve made or the injuries or the way the games have gone. But he’s handled everything really, really well.”
Iowa State has three players who are wired to score — Wigginton, Marial Shayok and Talen Horton-Tucker. Prohm has elected to use Haliburton, who is a pass-first player — after all, he did break Eric Heft’s single-game assist record as a true freshman — in the starting lineup so he can have another creator on the floor to go along with Shayok and Horton-Tucker’s scoring.
And then when Wigginton substitutes in — generally for Horton-Tucker — he provides a second-wind type of spark for the Cyclones.
In the last game against Kansas State, Wigginton was unconscious, making five of his six 3-point attempts and scoring 23 points.
“It was a big game and they’re the No. 1 team in our conference, so I just wanted to go in there and showcase what I could do and get a win for me and my team,” Wigginton said. “I wanted to bring anything I could to the table to get a win.”
When Wigginton first came back, the questions were about when he would re-enter the lineup. Now they’ve changed to why it’s worked so well for him to come off the bench.
“This situation is only going to prepare him and help him as he moves forward into the future,” Prohm said. “When he’s playing well, at a high level and making shots for us — I also think he’s made a really big step this year in getting others involved. When he’s doing that, he’s really, really good for us.
“He’s had to handle a lot more things than others have this year, but he’s handled it as good as a 19 or 20-year-old can. It speaks to who he is. We need him at his best going forward. When you look at the Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Kansas State games — he brought such a lift to our team in those games. He’s been big for us.”
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