- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2021

In the conversations Aaron Wiggins has with NBA teams during the pre-draft process, the Maryland guard knows what he’s looking for.

“Ideally, I want to be a first-rounder,” Wiggins said this week after a workout with the Golden State Warriors. “Want to hear promises, guarantees of me getting drafted.”

Only then will Wiggins truly feel comfortable with cutting his time with the Terrapins short to pursue his professional dreams. The 6-foot-6 Greensboro, North Carolina, native has spent this offseason on a fact-finding mission, learning what NBA teams like about his game and what he needs to improve. He’s worked out with the Warriors, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics, and he expects a few more workouts ahead of the July 29 draft.

But by July 7, Wiggins has a decision to make: Does he stay, or does he go?

“It all depends on how I feel and what I’m hearing and the conversation that I have with my parents after the entire process is over,” Wiggins said. “I’ll make that decision when that time comes.”

Wiggins hasn’t entered this process blind. Before he announced his intention to enter the NBA draft while also maintaining his eligibility, he texted with former Maryland guard Kevin Huerter, who now plays for the Atlanta Hawks. He also contacted Jalen Smith, the forward who the Phoenix Suns selected 10th overall in the 2020 draft.

They gave him an indication of what to expect, and Wiggins has gone into these workouts aiming to prove he’s more than a shooter. He wants to display his scoring talent across multiple levels, his defensive abilities, capabilities of guarding the ball and switching onto different positions. So far, he feels his performances have been strong. And the feedback from teams backs that up.

“The things that I’ve heard I’ve liked for the most part, and I’m kind of continuing to get a feel of where I stand and how teams see me,” Wiggins said. “I’m just continuing to take the process one day at a time and one workout at a time, and with the combine coming up, I’ll be able to work out in front of more teams. I’ll be able to show more. So just continuing to get a feel for it all and not rushing anything.”

Wiggins’ agent, Mike Whitaker, said Wiggins received an invitation to the G League Elite Camp in Chicago. If Wiggins plays well enough there this weekend, he could be one of the eight to 10 players to stay in Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine, which runs from June 21 to June 27.

Wiggins also has two more workouts scheduled before his decision date, but Whitaker figures he could pick up two to three more workouts with how he plays in Chicago.

“I think by July 7, he will have anywhere from seven to 10 workouts,” Whitaker said, “and he’ll have all of that feedback, and the combine feedback.”

The first thing that stands out to most teams is Wiggins’ size. At 6-foot-6, he’s a lanky guard. He can space the floor, matching an NBA style with his speed.

Wiggins didn’t show enough of that during his junior season — at least early on. He returned to College Park primed to be Maryland’s primary offensive weapon, but he averaged under 10 points per game in his first six contests.

He rebounded to play some of his best basketball down the stretch of the season, coinciding with the Terrapins’ run of five straight wins that helped book a place in the NCAA tournament. Wiggins finished the year averaging 14.5 points, and he posted 27 points against Alabama in the second round of March Madness.

If that was his last game for Maryland, it will have been a showing NBA teams covet. Wiggins hit 5-of-8 3-pointers and converted double-digit field goals for the second time that season, showing precision from range — better than the 35.6% shooting on triples over the season — with strong drives to the rim.

“I think a lot of people noticed, I struggled early in the season, both hitting shots, making plays and just kind of getting into a groove,” Wiggins said. “But I think I did a good job of continuing to stay locked in and figure things out as the season went on. Second half of the season, I think I had a great season. I played up to the way I was capable of playing. I think I finished the season really strong.”

Wiggins isn’t the only Terrapins player exploring his options, with Darryl Morsell and Eric Ayala also testing the draft process. The trio have had conversations about returning to Maryland, what that squad could look like next season with a full complement of talented players.

He’s also spoken with coach Mark Turgeon and his staff about the process. But all parties involved know each journey is different, and each decision is full of complicated factors.

“They’re confident in me. They know that I’ve prepared for the opportunity in front of me,” Wiggins said. “They’ve just kind of told me go in there play confident, have fun, enjoy the process. They kind of just tell me to be myself and do the things that I’ve always done. That’s all I’m sticking with.”

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