Dashaun Wiggins knew the perception around the city. He saw the sideways looks. He heard the rumors that he was a problem.
People – opponents, coaches, even fans – thought he was a bad kid. Of course, he didn’t help himself, getting into a couple of altercations the last few years with teammates, failing off the Wings Academy boys’ basketball team his freshman year and most of his sophomore season. There was even a certain swagger to which he walked, teammate and friend Jabriel Blue said, that may have turned spectators off.
“People think I’m a headache, a loose cannon,” Wiggins said Friday night at Manhattan College for the Jaspers’ annual team camp. “I’m a quiet, good kid.”
Wiggins had had a tough life. The 6-foot-2 guard lives – and grew up – in the Hunts Point.
For all his talents – leading Wings to the Bronx borough title as a sophomore despite playing in just one regular-season league game – there were, and still are, those who have questions about his character.
Rumors circulated that he wasn’t injured in Wings’ second-round loss to Thomas Edison, that Wings Academy coach Billy Turnage benched him after he repeatedly missed practice. The coach and player deny any rift or truth to the claim.
Wiggins didn’t want the label as a troublemaker to stick. So, with a nudge from those around him, Turnage to K.C. Williams, his mentor, to his uncle Kenyatta Collins, he tried to change.
He cleaned up the way he talked, using less expletives and slang. He stopped wearing baggy clothes. He went about becoming a new person.
Wiggins was referring to his future and possibly becoming the first person from his family to go to college. A deadly scorer who averaged 19 points per game last season, he has received plenty of Division I interest from schools in the Big East, ACC and CAA.
Those slight changes, he said, can only help when meeting a college coach who has the power to offer him a free education.