Wiggins grows into leader 

When Alan Wiggins Jr. first stepped foot on the USF campus in August 2003, he earned the nickname "young boy" from his men’s basketball teammates because of his precocious status as a 17-year-old freshman.

Four years later, Wiggins may still hear the nickname from an occasional teammate or coach old enough to remember his arrival, but any USF opponent expecting to find a "young boy" on the court was in line for a rude awakening.

As a senior forward, Wiggins has put together his finest season as a Don, averaging 14.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, while shooting over 52 percent from the field. For his efforts, he was named a first-team All-West Coast Conference performer Tuesday.

Making Wiggins’ standout season all the more remarkable is the fact that he has been the one stabilizing force for USF this season, starting every game, while several of his teammates have missed time to injuries or academic uncertainties.

The personal accolades are a testament to Wiggins’ tireless work ethic, but the 6-foot-9, 225-pounder is much more concerned with team success.

"I worked really hard this year, so to be named to the first-team all-conference was nice," said Wiggins, the son of former major-leaguer Alan Wiggins and the brother of Stanford women’s basketball star Candice Wiggins. "But what I really want to focus on is winning three games in the WCC tournament this year."

He will get his first shot at completing that goal Saturday, when the fourth-seeded Dons play the winner of today’s San Diego-Pepperdine game in the quarterfinals of the WCC tournament in Portland, Ore.

During his four years at USF, Wiggins has never made it to the NCAA Tournament, something he hopes to remedy this year — especially knowing he won’t get another chance next season.

"I’m just going to leave everything out on the court," said Wiggins, who knows the Dons must win the WCC postseason title to get into the NCAA Tournament. "I have to give extreme effort on every play and do anything my team needs me to do. I don’t want my last games to be played this weekend."

Wiggins will get help in the WCC tournament from starting guards Antonio Kellogg (team-leading 15.4 point per game) and Manny Quezada (13.1 ppg), but the Dons may be without senior point guard Armondo Surratt, whose status for the postseason is still uncertain due to an ankle injury.

At 13-17 overall, Dons will have to get througha number of solid teams in the WCC tournament, including a possible rematch with perennial power Gonzaga in semifinals. It was just Saturday that the Dons lost their momentum in the second half and lost to the Zags in overtime 86-79 at War Memorial Gymnasium.

Despite the tough road ahead, Dons coach Jessie Evans is confident in his team, especially with the way Wiggins has conducted himself this season.

"I honestly couldn’t ask for anything more from Alan," said

Evans, who has coached Wiggins the past three seasons. "He hasn’t missed a game or practice and he plays his heart out every time he’s on the court. I hate to use the cliché, but if I had five Alan Wiggins on my team, I would be a very happy coach."

WEST COAST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT

At Chiles Center, Portland, Ore.

TODAY’S

First-round Games

» No. 5 San Diego (16-13) vs. No. 8 Pepperdine (8-22), 5:30 p.m.

» No. 6 Loyola Marymount (13-17) vs. No. 7 Portland (8-22), 8 p.m.

SATURDAY’S

QuarterfInal Games

» San Diego-Pepperdine winner vs. No. 4 USF (13-17), 6 p.m.

» Loyola Marymount-Portland winner vs. No. 3 St. Mary’s (16-14), 8:30 p.m.

SUNDAY'S

Semifinal Games

» San Diego-Pepperdine-USF winner vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (21-10), 6:30 p.m.

» Loyola Marymount-Portland-St. Mary’s winner vs. No. 2 Santa Clara (20-9), 8:30 p.m.

MONDAY'S

Championship Game

» Semifinal winners, 6 p.m.

About The Author

Will Reisman

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