Nova Scotia star ready for March Madness

Lindell Wigginton of North Preston, N.S., is ready to carry the hopes and dreams of his family and friends on his muscular shoulders as his Iowa State Cyclones prepare to open their NCAA basketball tournament on Friday.

The six-foot-two-inch guard, one of 21 Canadian men playing in the tournament dubbed March Madness, spoke with CBC News from Tulsa, Okla., on Thursday ahead of his opening-round matchup against Ohio State.

Wigginton said being a role model for young players back home in the Halifax area is part of his motivation.

"I just want to show that … if I can do it, they can do it," he said. "I came from the same roots they came from, the same places they came from, the same neighbourhoods they came from."

Wigginton had his own basketball role model growing up — his older brother Rodell, who made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA tournament for the State University of New York at Buffalo Bulls.

Wigginton shared what his brother told him as he prepared for Friday's big game.

"Just go in with a free mind," said Wigginton, recalling his brother's advice.

"Just give it everything you got when you're on the floor. And just play for the person next to you and just try to come out with a win."

A win would be more than Rodell's Buffalo squad was able to muster in 2015 and 2016, as they lost both of their tournament games. However, the younger Wigginton is confident Iowa State will live up to its favoured seeding against Ohio State.

"He wants me to go farther than he did. So I think I could do that."

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

A stellar turn in this year's tournament could put Wigginton back on track to be a first-round pick in the NBA draft. He hit the ground running in his first season in Ames, Iowa, in 2017-18, averaging a school freshman record of 16.7 points per game.

But the sophomore blues struck early when Wigginton missed part of the current season with a foot injury. He didn't regain his starting job when he returned.

The sweet-shooting guard refused to be deterred however, recording several big games off the bench and winning the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year award.

His name has since popped back on NBA draft boards as he tries to become the first Atlantic Canadian to play in the world's top league.

"It [the injury] was just a little bump in the road, but I definitely don't think it set me back," he said. "I think, if anything, it [will] just help me … going into situations and just adapting to any tough situation."