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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Wiggs to fly with Golden Eagles

Thursday, July 6, 2006

You really couldn't have blamed him if he would have said, "Coach, I just can't go."

After all, it was just an All-Star game held a month and a half after he'd played his last regular-season high school basketball game, and he'd suffered a ghastly injury less than two minutes into the meaningless affair.

But it's just not his style to pull out halfway through something. So instead of throwing in the towel and watching the rest of the festivities from a comfortable seat on the bench, he gutted it out and played with the same heart and devotion of a kid who was hoping to make his high school team, instead of one who had dominated games at the varsity level for four years.

The player was Alex Wiggs, the game was the first-ever Missouri State-West Plains Grizzly All-Star Game at the West Plains Civic Center April 22, and the injury was a severely broken knuckle on a finger on his shooting hand, an injury that happened barely after tip off in the contest featuring the best senior players from northern Arkansas and south-central Missouri.

But play on he did. After emerging from the locker room with his damaged digit taped up, a knuckle that was broken completely in half and would later be described by an attending physician as "One of the worst breaks I'd ever seen," Wiggs played the remainder of the game in obvious pain.

That one afternoon spoke volumes about the desire that Alex Wiggs gave on the hardwood for the Alton Comets the past four seasons, and was a big reason why he was chosen as the Big Springs Conference MVP the past two years. It also explains how Wiggs has ended up signing a letter of intent to play basketball for John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Ark., next year, a school just two years removed from winning the NAIA national championship.

Wiggs inked to play for the Golden Eagles June 16.

And as far as the broken finger on his shooting hand, according to Wiggs, it's a thing of the past.

"It's good. It's back to normal," he said. "I got released from the doctor two weeks ago, and I'm ready to go."

Ready to go to the team that knocked off Azusa Pacific for the 2005 NAIA national championship. The Golden Eagles wrapped up last season with a 16-15 record overall and 11-7 in the Sooner Athletic Conference.

And as far as landing on a team that has a championship pedigree, Wiggs feels like that's something special.

"It's pretty cool," he said. "To say that I'm going somewhere that they won a national championship feels pretty cool."

According to JBU Head Coach John Sheehy, there is plenty of room at the college level for dedicated players like Wiggs.

"Alex has worked hard to make it to the next level, and we're happy that Alex chose to play ay JBU," Sheehy said.

Playing on a winning basketball team will be nothing new for Wiggs, who helped the Comets to a record of 89 wins and 19 losses, with a district title to boot, over the course of the last four years.

Wiggs was selected to the Missouri Sports Writers All-State Team, to go along with a spot on the All-Southwest Region Team for his senior campaign. Wiggs was tabbed as All-District for two seasons, and made the Big Spring Conference and All-Tournament Team for the past three years.

Just a casual glance at the numbers he posted at the varsity level show why Wiggs should have no trouble being as versatile at the college level as he was in high school. At times playing five different spots on the court, often during the same game, Wiggs tallied 1,224 points, 820 rebounds, 625 assists, 354 steals and 308 blocked shots during his career at Alton High School.

"I know Alex will do good at JBU," said Alton Head Coach Blake Reese. "He is a very talented player and will be an asset to their program."

Although the step up in competition from high school to college can sometimes be a steep one, Wiggs says he's ready for the jump.

"I think I'll fit in pretty good, actually," he said. "They (JBU) lost an All-American (Brandon Cole) point guard from last year. He had about 100 more 3-pointers than J.J. Redick (Duke University and the 11th overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft), so he leads every division in 3-pointers made. He was even on Sportscenter."

Cole did have an outstanding career for John Brown University, breaking both the NAIA and NCAA record with 120 straight games with a made 3-pointer, and at 527, he also holds the record for most treys made in a career.

Not a bad selling point for a high school senior.

"It was mainly the environment there," said Wiggs, who plans on majoring in pre-pharmacy. "I went and visited several other colleges, but none of them really felt right. I really liked the coaching staff at JBU. They're really nice guys."

Wiggs figures to man the shooting guard or small forward spot for the Golden Eagles, two positions he excelled in while helping the Comets roll up numerous victories in the Big Spring Conference, along with the Class 2 District 9 title during his sophomore season, a win that Wiggs puts above all others he was involved in at Alton.

"One of my best memories at Alton was winning the district championship my sophomore year," he said. "That, along with having Thayer down really big and beating East Carter at our place my sophomore year. Those wins really stand out for me. And this year wasn't too bad because no one really expected us to get that far."

The Comets made it to the district finals, where they were knocked off by Willow Springs, one win short of a berth in the Class 3 State Tournament.

Even though Wiggs is understandably ready for his college career to take flight, he has one more high school game to appear in, his third All-Star game of the spring/summer, July 8 on the College of the Ozarks' campus in Point Lookout, this after competing in the St. John's Sports Medicine basketball All-Star Game June 30 at the Hammons Student Center on the campus of Missouri State.

And after that, who knows, John Brown University and possibly a segment on Sportscenter.

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