One of the reasons why Jamion Christian’s Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers were able to win 11 of 12 games leading up to the Northeast Conference tournament title game was the improvement of freshman guard Shivaughn Wiggins.
In the 12 games leading up to their 91-70 loss to LIU-Brooklyn Wiggins reached double figures ten times, scoring a career-high 28 points in the Mountaineers’ 103-82 win over Fairleigh Dickinson on March 2. With his finish to the season (and subsequent NEC Rookie of the Year award), Wiggins’ future at The Mount seemed to be bright.
But on Wednesday the school made official the news reported earlier in the week by Justin Byerly, announcing in a release that Wiggins’ request to be released from his scholarship had been granted. Wiggins averaged 9.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in his one season at Mount St. Mary’s. Also leaving the program is 6-7 forward Melvin Gregory, who did not appear in a game for the Mountaineers last season.
“We are working tirelessly to establish a strong and consistent culture on an off of the floor,” Christian said in the release. “In our first season we were able to make tremendous strides in these areas and we are committed to doing so on a daily basis. Shivaughn had an unbelievable freshman year for us here at the Mount and was a big contributor to this past season’s success.
“We will continue to wish him the best in any of his future endeavors.”
While the reasons behind Wiggins’ departure remain unknown, roster turnover tends to happen when a new head coach takes over the program. Some players may choose to transfer immediately, with others making the decision to wait a year to see how they fit into the new system. For example a similar roster transformation happened at Illinois this spring, with the Fighting Illini losing three players.
Christian, an alum of Mount St. Mary’s, led the Mountaineers to an 18-win campaign in his debut season and with the top three scorers from last season’s team back (guards Rashad Whack, Sam Prescott and Julian Norfleet) they’ll once again be a factor in the NEC.
But all three of those players are seniors, and as Ryan Peters of Big Apple Buckets points out Wiggins was in line to figure prominently in the Mountaineers’ future:
Obviously, this news hurts the near-term prospects of Mount St. Mary’s, who many considered as a legitimate favorite to win the wide open NEC next season. While it’s a blow to their title chances, the Mount may miss Wiggins even more beyond this season. With Julien Norfleet, Sam Prescott, and Rashad Whack set to graduate next May, Wiggins was expected to carry the torch as an upperclassman.
Now, Christian must rely on his incoming freshmen guards – Khalid Nwandu, Byron Ashe, and Charles Glover – to step up in Wiggins’ absence. As such, Mount St. Mary’s will likely get bumped down a spot in the preseason NEC poll.
Losing Wiggins certainly hurts Mount St. Mary’s, but don’t expect them to fall too far out of an NEC title race that will include three-time defending champions LIU, Robert Morris and Wagner.