NORTH ADAMS >> Three years ago, Joe Wiggins graduated from St. Joseph High School after helping lead the Crusaders to a Division III state championship game. Now, he's one of the oldest and one of the "least experienced" players on the MCLA men's basketball team.
But so far, so good.
"No, I wouldn't believe it. It was a shock actually," said Wiggins, when asked if he could wrap his arms around being the first MASCAC men's basketball rookie of the week this season. "I didn't even think I was going to play basketball."
Wiggins and freshman guard Collin Parrott are in the rotation for interim coach Tony Skiffington. Both have played important roles as the Trailblazers hit the Thanksgiving break with a 2-3 record.
The Trailblazers battled perennial Division III power Williams to the final seconds on Tuesday night.
"I went to BCC and played on their club team for two years there," he said. "Me and the [athletic director Lauren Pellegrino] had a talk about my coming here. It was time to choose if I was going to stay another semester or transfer out.
"And we both decided that me transferring out would be the best decision for me."
It was also a very good decision for Skiffington and the Trailblazers.
"I've known Joe quite a few years since he was in high school. I've seen him play in the summer. When I found out he was coming here, I was excited," said the coach. "I didn't know he was looking to go anywhere.
"I knew he was so athletic and he's such a smart player."
Wiggins has been one of Skiffington's first players off the bench. The 6-foot sophomore is averaging 13 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He scored 21 off the bench in a 96-95 overtime win over Lyndon State last week. That helped earn Wiggins the rookie of the week.
It's kind of been a series of changes for Wiggins. When he left St. Joseph, the plan was to play football at Westfield State. He left after one semester and spent two years at BCC. Then after signing up to go to MCLA, Jamie Morrison stepped aside.
The long path to MCLA hasn't been without bumps, but the road has made it easier to handle.
"I knew Coach Skiff from summer leagues. I knew [Morrison] from him trying to recruit me in high school. When we found out that Coach Jamie was going to resign, Coach Skiff, I know very well," said Wiggins. "I like his philosophy and his playing style.
"I knew it would be a good fit for me still."
Wiggins has been the sixth man for the Trailblazers and has taken to the job easily.
"It's tough to bring a true freshman off the bench to be the sixth man. He's like a senior," said Skiffington. "He's got a lot of experience."
MCLA has also been a pretty good fit for Parrott. The former Wahconah three-sport standout has taken to his role as backup point guard effectively. He plays 13.5 minutes per game, and while his scoring (1.4 points per game) is not where he was at Wahconah, he is averaging 2.4 assists per game.
"It's an honor to play college basketball anywhere, but this group is honestly different," said Parrott. "Right when I got here, they accepted all the freshmen. There's a family atmosphere.
"We eat together. We do everything together."
Skiffington said it's nice to have a couple of Berkshire County guys on his roster.
"The opportunity is here to play," said the coach. "These are my roots as well. This is where I grew up."
Parrott said that playing in college is a lot of work, but isn't any different than he anticipated.
And as to the team? The freshman said he and his teammates didn't pay much attention to preseason polls that have the Trailblazers near the bottom of the conference. But when asked, Parrott said it's not such a bad thing.
"Honestly, personally, I like when people do stuff like that with the rankings," said Parrott. "There aren't that many expectations and you can prove everyone wrong."