- The Washington Times
Monday, July 5, 2021

For the past week, Aaron Wiggins has weighed the pros and cons, trying to come to a decision before the looming July 7 deadline. That’s when the 6-foot-6 guard needed to decide whether he would return to Maryland basketball for his senior season or remain in the NBA draft, taking his chances at the next level.

He sat down with coach Mark Turgeon. He talked extensively with his parents. And over the July 4 weekend, Wiggins could tell which way he was leaning — with the help of the opinions from those he values most.

He loved his time with the Terrapins. He holds a special fondness for his sophomore season, when he and his teammates won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. But with the information he gathered during the pre-draft process, his decision became clear.

Wiggins would keep his name in the draft. And when he came to that conclusion, he felt “a weight off my back.” He knows it’s the right call.

“Teams love me, and I think I still have a chance to continue to prove my case, and I have to take this opportunity to really take this step forward and move on to what I have in front of me,” Wiggins said Monday night. “The feedback and information that I’ve gotten has been positive, has been great information. And I know that I’m moving in the right direction.”

Since Wiggins declared for the draft in April — maintaining his eligibility in the process — the guard has gotten a feel for how teams view him. Teams knew he was a shooter, scoring an average of 14.5 points per game last season with the Terrapins. They saw how he turned it on late, powering Maryland to the NCAA tournament and scoring 27 points against Alabama in a second-round loss.

But Wiggins wanted to prove there was more in his arsenal than just that.

During pre-draft workouts, Wiggins showed his multi-level scoring ability, and he proved he could be a dogged defender, switching onto bigger players and holding his own.

“They kind of would ask me, ‘I didn’t know you had this much more to offer,’” Wiggins said. “Teams were kind of surprised with my ability to create my own shots, to get to the basket, my ability to pass the ball. And then defensively, my versatility being able to guard the 1, the 2, the 3. … I think I caught a lot of teams off guard and really surprised people.”

His stock rose at the G League Elite Camp. He scored a team-high 15 points in his first scrimmage and followed that performance up with 11 points in his second outing while coming off the bench. Those showings were enough to earn a place at the NBA Draft Combine, where he benefited from playing in front of more scouts and teams.

“I just had the mindset to go in and continue to prove myself and continue to show teams what I have to offer,” Wiggins said. “Everything kind of went pretty well, and I continued to move up in the eyes of, not only myself, but to teams.”

That left Wiggins with a load of information, and he needed a way to sift through it all. So Wiggins spoke with “a ton” of former and current Maryland players, soaking in their stories and perspectives. He wanted as clear a picture as he could get before making his decision.

And he leaned on his parents and Turgeon, wanting their points of view before forgoing his remaining eligibility with the Terrapins.

“[Turgeon] gave me the insights on how the situation could turn out, how things could play out, both if I returned to school and staying in the draft,” Wiggins said. “He gave me his knowledge and everything he heard.”

Last month, after a workout with the Golden State Warriors, Wiggins said his ideal draft position would be the first round. But after hearing more feedback, he’s confident in his choice, even if it doesn’t result in a first-round selection. He said, “a couple teams really love me, and really showed a lot of interest.”

Wiggins already had a couple more workouts planned with teams in the coming days, but since he made his announcement, more teams have gotten ahold of him to plan visits. He’s bittersweet about the end of his Terrapins career after three years — three years in which he eclipsed 1,000 points and played alongside some of his best friends.

But Wiggins, after undergoing the pre-draft process and liking the feedback he heard, believes the best is yet to come.

“I loved the University of Maryland, loved the people, loved my teammates and my coaches,” Wiggins said. “But I think I made the decision that’s best for me, and I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to every single day I have in front of me.”

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.