The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

From coach to player

City College, freshman forward, Michael Wiggins (middle) gets gets tied up with Shasta College, guard Chaz Thompson during the Beaver Classic Tournament at American River College Gym on Nov. 15th. (Multimedia Editor/Dianne Rose/[email protected])

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE. That’s what former City College basketball coach and current small forward on the men’s basketball team Michael Wiggins thinks.

“Yeah, [I’m a] 25-year-old freshman. You don’t see too many of those, but I’m living proof that it’s never too late to go to school and follow your dreams,” says Wiggins.

While Wiggins is a new addition to the roster, his experience with the team goes back to his first year at City College in 2009 when head Coach Andrew Jones invited Wiggins to join the coaching staff as an assistant coach, a role he filled until joining the team as a player this season.

“He tried out for the team, and he didn’t make the team,” says Jones. “We really liked him [when he tried out for the team], and we thought he would be a good person to have involved in the program. So I said I might as well make [Wiggins] a volunteer assistant.”

After three seasons as an assistant, Wiggins says that coaching had him itching to get back on the court. He wasn’t fond of the idea of one day sitting back and wondering what could have been if he returned to playing.

“Ultimately, I said, ‘You know what? While I’m still young and still able to go to school full time and play basketball, let me do it.’ I don’t want to have any regrets. That’s my biggest thing,” says Wiggins. “I just had this burning desire in me that [I] wanted to play.”

Having never played at the collegiate level made it harder to connect with some of the players he had coached, says Wiggins, a problem he solved by making the team this year.

“I never had played at the junior college level, and yet I was a coach at the junior college level. That didn’t sit well with me,” Wiggins says. “I was asking my players to push themselves in ways that I’ve never pushed myself, and I felt a little guilty for that.”

While Wiggins has seen success as a coach—coaching the team to a playoff berth in 2012 and winning records in two of his three years as a coach—he says his primary goal in attending City College is to excel as a student.

“Coming to Sac City, my first intent was to come here for school,” says Wiggins. “That was one of the biggest motivating factors for to me to come back to school: the fact that I didn’t have a college degree.”

In trading his seat on the bench for a spot on the floor, Wiggins realizes that he brings a level of experience and basketball knowledge invaluable to a young team and says that helps him to be a leader.

“They come to me for advice. They come and ask me questions, and that humbles me,” says Wiggins.

Players who were on the team during Wiggins’ tenure as an assistant coach, like sophomore small forward Derek Rhodes, feel that it’s a definite advantage to have a built-in connection with a new player.
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“It’s a little bit different,” says Rhodes. “Last year when he was the coach, we had great chemistry, and for him to be [a] player now, we still connect very well. So it’s a good thing.”

Wiggins says he now sees himself as both a player and a coach, which he hopes may help the young roster throughout the season. But he adds that because he’s new to college basketball, he will look to his teammates for advice.

“Never having played, I have to listen to them,” he says. “When I need game advice, the roles will flip-flop.”

Assistant Coach John Florence—who describes Wiggins as the kind of player any coach would want on the roster to help mold a young team into a winning one— has worked with Wiggins for the past three years on the sidelines.

He says Wiggins’ new role as a player has been an adjustment for both of them, an adjustment Florence notes that Wiggins has handled particularly well.

“I think he’s done a great job with the transition from being a coach,” says Florence. “I think the guys have really accepted him mainly because Mike works really hard and doesn’t take any plays off.”

Wiggins says he wants to become a top player in the area during his debut season this year, focusing on his defensive skills, which he and those around him feel are his strong suit.

“Defense is just something that I’ve excelled at, so my goal is to be one of the best defenders this state has to offer,” says Wiggins.

According to Coach Jones, while Wiggins may not be the most talented player on the squad, his defensive prowess makes him a definite asset in close games.

“He was in one game recently down the stretch when we were going very defensive-minded,” says Jones. “That’s his skill—at the defensive end.”

Wiggins says he feels playing for the Panthers is a worthwhile means toward accomplishing his ultimate goal.

“My main goal is to be a coach at the professional level,” Wiggins says. “For me, to have started here at the college level, I’m blessed.”

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