Canadian Lindell Wigginton's unique journey to NBA: ‘This is where I belong'

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One week after the Toronto Raptors won their first title in 2019, the NBA held its draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York where more Canadian content would take centre stage for the league.

While Zion Williamson was the consensus No. 1 pick, there was a lot of hype over who would round out the top-3 selections, with Canadian RJ Barrett’s name in the mix following his impressive year with the Duke Blue Devils.

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Several other Canadians were also hoping to hear their names called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver that night, including Nova Scotia’s Lindell Wigginton, who was coming off two strong seasons with the Iowa State Cyclones.

Barrett was selected third overall by the New York Knicks and five other players with Canadian ties would be drafted that night. Wigginton was not one of them.

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From there, he would spend the next two years proving he too belonged on an NBA court.

After going undrafted, Wigginton joined the Raptors for the 2019 NBA Summer League. He then signed a 10-day contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves before spending two separate stints with their G League team [Iowa Wolves] and another one playing overseas with Ironi Nes Ziona of the Israeli Premier League.

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In the summer of 2021, Wigginton began his journey towards making Canadian basketball history. He signed a deal with the Hamilton Honey Badgers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League [CEBL], where he’d go on to finish the season as Canadian Player of the Year, Clutch Player of the Year and a finalist for Player of the Year.

Still training and pushing to reach his dream of making it to the NBA, Wigginton was on the move again. In October of 2021, the Wolves traded his player rights to the Wisconsin Herd, the G League team for the reigning NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks. In 17 games with the Herd, he averaged 17.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 30.8 minutes per game before getting called up to the big club.

And on Jan. 13th, 2022 — 938 days after going undrafted in the NBA — Wigginton signed a two-way contract with the Bucks. The contract was a historic one, making Wigginton the first former CEBL player to sign a standard contract in the NBA.

After years of hard work and never doubting his dreams, Wigginton finally had his NBA moment.

. @Lwigginton5Wigginton who signed a two-way contract with the @Bucks is the first Canadian to sign a standard @nba contract after playing in the @CEBLeague . Loved hearing his welcome to the NBA moment from a @Hoophall member. (@NBACanada @CityNewsTO )

— Lindsay Dunn (@LindsayDunnTV) January 24, 2022

“I feel like I’m supposed to be on this stage, and this is where I belong,” Wigginton told Sportsnet. “Obviously, it’s what I grew up dreaming about but now I’m living it in reality.”

His first game in the NBA was the same night he signed the contract, taking on Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors — a player he crossed paths with when he was on the 10-day contract with Minnesota in 2019.

“My first year, I wanted to see Steph Curry play, and I got to see him play. He scored like 40 points in three quarters in a pre-season game. Then, my first game playing in the NBA with the Bucks I got to see him again, it’s crazy.”

Wigginton played a total of five minutes in that game and scored his first NBA points in helping the Bucks beat the Warriors 118-99.

“I never really had doubt because I knew I’m a hard worker and at some point, I knew the hard work would pay off. I also knew my skill set, I knew who I could play against, and I knew the stage I could be on. I always had confidence,” Wigginton said.

“Every time I stepped on the floor, no matter where I was, I knew I could dominate the current situation. And I didn’t try to think further like, ‘I’m supposed to be [in the] NBA’. I was in the moment and knew I’m supposed to be here. I just try to dominate the moment and hoped it would pay off and it paid off.”

Canadian Lindell Wigginton’s unique journey to NBA: ‘This is where I belong’
© Provided by Sportsnet The Raptors Show with Will Lou Will Lou and Alex Wong talk all things Raptors live on Sportsnet 590 The FAN weekdays from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. ET. | Listen to the latest episode of the show here | Follow Will Lou on Twitter | Follow Alex Wong on Twitter
Canadian Lindell Wigginton’s unique journey to NBA: ‘This is where I belong’
© Provided by Sportsnet

The 23-year-old grew up in North Preston, Nova Scotia which he says was a tough place for most kids to dream as big as making it to the NBA.

“There is a lot of violence and stuff like that but I had good people around me that kept me on the right path and knew what I wanted in life,” Wigginton recalled. “I had a great support system behind me like my parents and my brothers, and the people in the community helped me stay focused too because they didn’t let me get sidetracked by any negative stuff.”

Wigginton is hoping his story will help not only the youth in Nova Scotia but right across the country.

“It means so much to me to just be able to come from where I come from and to do what I’m doing and to inspire the youth means the most to me. I want to give back to my community and to my province because growing up, I didn’t have that. I didn’t have a role model I could look up to and say, ‘Oh, he was an NBA player’ or ‘She was doing this’. It’s just a blessing to be in a position where I am able to give back to the youth and also inspire them to know that they can get to this level if they work hard and believe in themselves.”

Now that he’s finally realized his NBA dream, Wigginton is soaking up every piece of advice he can from veteran players on the Bucks to make sure his dream does not end after just one season.

“I’ve been trying to speak to the older guys that are in my position on the court and that have been on the stage for a long time, like Jrue Holiday, George Hill and guys like that. I’m just trying to pick their brains on things like that and try to figure out what makes you stick in this league. It’s not even just on-the-court stuff, it’s off-the-court stuff too. So it’s been a blessing to be able to learn from great vets like them and know that they are always looking out for your best interest.”

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