BY CAROLINE KENNY
CofC Athletics Communications Student Assistant
The College of Charleston men's basketball team will honor its lone senior, forward Antwaine Wiggins, as he plays in his final regular-season home game tonight versus Georgia Southern at 8 p.m. (ET) at TD Arena.
Basketball has always been a huge part of Wiggins' life. His cousin, Mitchell Wiggins, played college basketball at Florida State and then professionally in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets. He grew up a fan of the Duke Basketball program and emulated the game of J.J. Redick. With regard to the NBA, his favorite player was Tracy McGrady.
"I've played basketball ever since I was young," Wiggins said. "My dad (Charles Wiggins) - everyone in my family played."
A native of Greeneville, Tenn., Wiggins played for Greenville High School prior to attending CofC. While CofC Head Coach Bobby Cremins and his staff did not usually recruit in the state of Tennessee, they made the journey there to recruit former Cougar standout Tony White, Jr. It was White who pushed Wiggins on Cremins. Wiggins and White played on the same AAU team, the Tennessee Travelers.
Prior to attending CofC, Wiggins was a finalist for Tennessee's Class AAA Mr. Basketball Award after averaging 26.3 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 4.0 assists for head coach Bill Duncan. He led the Greene Devils to a 32-3 overall record, with an 11-0 league mark, in his senior campaign. Wiggins was also named the MVP of the Tennessee Coaches Association All-Star Game to top off a stellar high school career.
His accomplishments in high school led him to The College and playing for the Cougars under Coach Cremins. As a freshman, Wiggins saw action in 33 games during the season and had 32 starts. He put up some big numbers in all aspects of the game.
"My favorite part of my freshman season was just starting on the team," Wiggins said. "We also went to a tournament in Puerto Rico and played Arkansas in the first round. They had a bunch of guys go to the NBA and we were scared, but halfway through, we realized we could keep up with these guys. Even though we didn't win, we learned from it to motivate us for our next game. In the second round, we played Temple and beat them with a game-winning buzzer beater."
Wiggins' sophomore season put him on the map on the college basketball circuit. He played and started in all 36 games of the season and averaged 8.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. Against South Carolina on Nov. 28, 2008, he had 13 points, eight rebounds and made a steal with 3.4 seconds left in the game to seal the win against the Gamecocks. Against North Carolina, his 12 points made an impact. In the game at Davidson, Wiggins had nine rebounds and blocked a potential game-winning three-pointer by current NBA star Stephen Curry at the buzzer to secure the Cougar road win.
Wiggins says his fondest memories of his sophomore year included beating Davidson, because, "they beat us at home the first time that season and it was cool to beat them on their own home court and redeem ourselves."
In the beginning of the 2009-10 season, Wiggins suffered a setback during September workouts. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, forcing him to redshirt the season.
He recalls the now infamous game in which the Cougars upset heavily-favored ACC powerhouse North Carolina. "Even though I did not play, it was a great experience and good win for our team."
Wiggins came back the next season at full strength, playing in all 36 games with 34 starts as a junior. He averaged 7.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 blocks and 0.7 steals per game. Wiggins also led the Cougars with 42 blocks and had a career-best 11 rebounds against both UNCG and Clemson.
This season has indeed been a special one for the senior who is on track to graduate in May with a degree in sociology. Wiggins was named to the 2011-12 Preseason All-Southern Conference Team in a vote by the league's head coaches. In addition, CBSSports.com named Wiggins as one of the best 2011-12 perimeter defenders in the nation. He was honored as SoCon Men's Basketball Player of the Week on Nov. 22. In a nationally-televised game at fourth-ranked Louisville on Dec. 20, he became the 29th player in school history to amass 1,000 career points and he reset a career-best with a game-high 25 points in road victory at Samford on Jan. 30.
As for this year, Wiggins says that the Clemson game was his favorite, "because they had beaten us the past two years and it felt good getting a win on the road, especially with a young team."
The 6-foot-7 lefty, known as "Twaine" around campus, enjoys playing video games and spending time with his teammates in his spare time away from the basketball court. Throughout his career, he has been known for his infectious smile and ever-changing hair styles ranging from a Mohawk to an afro.
Wiggins has enjoyed playing for Coach Cremins and says Coach has truly taught him how to be a man and to be responsible. "He cares about us off the court, even more than he cares about basketball. He's all about grades and if we don't do well in school, we won't play."
Regarding his future, Wiggins says he hopes to play professional basketball, but will sit down with Coach after the season and explore his opportunities.
"Right now, I'm focused on helping and leading our team to a championship," he said.
The Cougars will play their last regular-season game on Saturday, Feb. 25 against their crosstown rival The Citadel, before preparing for the Southern Conference Tournament to be held on March 2-5 in Asheville, N.C.