Lindell Wigginton was with his family at home in Dartmouth, N.S., watching as 60 names, including six Canadians, were called in last month’s NBA draft. His wasn’t among them.
But the 21-year-old tried not to sweat it. He feels he’s been overlooked for much of his career. This was no different.
And by the time Wigginton woke up the next morning, he’d been added to the Toronto Raptors’ roster for NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
“It was a lot of emotions, but I knew coming into it that it could go either way, I could be drafted or be undrafted, I knew what it was,” Wigginton said shortly after landing in Las Vegas on Wednesday. “I know I’m going to work hard and I’m going to be the best I can be, so it really didn’t matter to me about being drafted. I know what I can do on the floor and I know what I can bring to a team.
“It was a lot of emotions, but at the end of the day it just matters about being in the right situation. I think with the Raptors I’m in the right situation right now.”
Wigginton, who declared for the draft after his sophomore season at Iowa State, joins more than a dozen Canadians playing in the NBA’s annual summer showcase in Las Vegas which tips off Saturday and includes 95 games culminating in the July 15 championship game.
Plenty of eyes will be on No. 3 draft pick RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., who’ll battle Duke teammate and this year’s top draft pick Zion Williamson when Barrett’s New York Knicks play Williamson’s New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
Barrett headlined a record six Canadians selected in the draft, and they’ll all be in Vegas.
But there’s at least a half dozen more Canadians like Wigginton who are hoping for a shot.
“I’m more excited (than nervous), just to show everybody what they missed out on,” said Wigginton, who played alongside Barrett when Canada won gold two years ago at the U19 World Cup. “I think I have been overlooked throughout my whole career, I always have a chip on my shoulder, and whoever I go up against I’m always trying to be the best on the floor.”
Wigginton can soak up inspiration from players such as Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who developed his ”Bet on Yourself” brand after being snubbed in the 2016 NBA draft. Three years later, the Raptors backup point guard played a huge role in Toronto’s historic NBA championship run.
“Most definitely, I look at that a lot,” said Wigginton. ”It’s a lot of G League guys who were playing in the finals, guys like Fred came in and stepped up, and Pascal (Siakam), they did what they had to do. It’s a lot of motivation. They just got their opportunity at the right time and I think Toronto is a great organization … so it would be great to be in that same situation, and get an opportunity at playing.”
Wigginton says he has a bit of scrappy guards VanVleet and Kyle Lowry in him.
“I’m athletic and I bring a lot to the table on both ends of the floor, just as a leader and my work ethic … bring whatever I can to the team, and just a young guy coming in trying to soak everything up and trying to be the best he can be,” he said.
While two Nova Scotians have been drafted in the NBA — Will Njoku, by Indiana in the second round in 1994, and Richie Spears, in the fifth round by St. Louis in 1966 — none have ever actually played in the league.
“I take pride in that … to earn a contract to play in the NBA it would be amazing,” Wigginton said. “And it’s not all about the basketball, it’s about showing kids where I’m from that they can make it if they strive to work hard. I want to be a big inspiration to everybody back home. I’m going to work my butt off and do whatever I can do to earn a contract.”
Duane Notice of Woodbridge, Ont., is making his Summer League debut for the Raptors after coming off a season with the team’s G League affiliate Raptors 905.
“For me, I’m just excited to be here, mainly because I want to be able to showcase my talent in front of everybody, but at the same time I’m just happy for the opportunity and I want to be able to network,” the 24-year-old said. “Just being here and seeing a whole bunch of players that I either looked up to or played against in college, and seeing coaches … it’s a good opportunity for me to network and kind of just brand myself and promote myself, so that’s what I’m excited about.”
Notice takes pride in his defence, and with the 905s he was often matched up against opponents’ best players. He was also one of the team’s top long-range shooters, shooting 38.9 per cent from three-point range.
“That’s kind of like my calling card … I’m a 3-and D guy, but at the same time always growing up I thought to myself you can’t control if you make or miss shots sometimes, but you can control your effort on defence,” he said. “People say it’s a skill but for me it’s effort, and every team I’ve played on they’ve gravitated toward putting me on the best player. This past season I’ve guarded players who were 6-8, 6-9 and I’m only 6-3.
“I know that if I’m not able to make shots, or if I’m not making the right plays on offence, I know I can control one thing and that’s my defence.”
Like Wigginton, Notice is motivated by the success of G League stars including Montreal’s Chris Boucher, and fellow former 905ers Alphonzo McKinnie (now with Golden State) and Delon Wright (Memphis).
“All those guys that came from the 905s and went to the Raptors or went on to other things, they laid the foundation down, kind of like a blueprint of what we have to do when we’re in the G League,” Notice said.
All 30 NBA teams, plus both the Chinese and Croatian national teams, will play in the Vegas Summer League. Each team plays four preliminary games. The top eight after those are seeded in the championship tournament, while the others play a consolation game.
While Summer League rosters remain fluid with players’ commitments changing, Canadians playing in Vegas as of Thursday are:
Mychal Mulder (Chicago Bulls); Naz Mitrou-Long (Cleveland Cavaliers); Dyshawn Pierre (Dallas Mavericks); MiKyle McIntosh (Indiana Pacers); Mfiondu Kabengele (Los Angeles Clippers); Oshae Brissett (Clippers); Simi Shittu (Minnesota Timberwolves); Kyle Alexander (Miami Heat); Ignas Brazdeikis and RJ Barrett (New York Knicks); Luguentz Dort (Oklahoma City Thunder); Marial Shayok (Philadelphia 76ers); Chris Boucher, Lindell Wigginton, and Duane Notice (Toronto Raptors).