INDIANAPOLIS - It does not take long to see there is something different about Ari Wiggins than most 14-year-olds. Her talent on the basketball court catches your attention. There is a spin and scoop at the rim that leaves a defender flailing. There is a jab-step and a 3-pointer. A cross-court bounce pass for a layup. Another pull-up 3-pointer.
Yes, she is the real deal. Indiana University coach Teri Moren thought enough of Wiggins to offer her a scholarship before she had even played a high school game. But that is not necessarily what makes Wiggins unique. There are other talented 14-year-olds out there.
There is something else. It is what drives her to bounce off the couch and knock out 30 situps and 20 pushups when she is feeling too lazy. It is what drives her to set up orange cones in her driveway and put herself through a ballhandling drill. It was what drives her to call her dad and ask if he will drive her to Lifetime Fitness for a late-night workout when he gets home from work.
“She has a strong will,” said her mother, Camille Wiggins. “Even as a baby, she didn’t have to talk for us to know how she felt. Her body language told us. She is pretty frank and unfiltered as a 14-year-old.”
While there are plenty of other girls basketball players in the area who will play a starring role next season – Carmel’s Amy Dilk, Martinsville’s Kayana Traylor, North Central’s Rikki Harris, Pike’s Angel Baker and Heritage Christian’s Katlyn Gilbert among them – Wiggins appears destined to get to that level sooner than later.
The 5-7 Wiggins will attend Heritage Christian for her freshman year of high school. That was a question of itself in girls basketball circles this spring. Wiggins attended Heritage Christian for middle school but lives in Washington Township and grew up playing in North Central’s feeder system.
Heritage Christian and North Central both have a strong reputation in academics and girls basketball. Heritage Christian has seven state championships – all since 2006 and all under coach Rick Risinger – while North Central has three state titles in Class 4A and returns a strong core from a 27-1 season.
“Basketball for both schools was about the same,” Wiggins said. “I have a lot of friends going to North Central. But I wanted to go somewhere a little smaller and I have a lot of friends at Heritage too. I thought it would be a good start for me there.”
Basketball was love at first sight. When Ari was 4, her father, Eric Wiggins, was coaching her younger brother Andrew’s team at the SportsZone on the west side. When Andrew decided he did not want to play, Ari filled his spot.
“I just had to change the first name on the roster,” Eric said with a laugh.
Ari is the third of four Wiggins’ children, two boys and two girls – Eric Jr., 18, Alaina, 15, and Andrew, 12. Eric Sr. was a multi-sport standout at Arlington, graduating in 1983. He met Camille, a Dayton, Ohio, native, at Earlham College in the mid-’80s.
“Of all of our kids, I think Ari found out what she loved the earliest,” said Eric Sr., who left a corporate job at Eli Lilly a dozen years ago for the ministry (he’s a pastor at New Horizons Church). “She’s loved it since the second grade. She found out what she liked to do and really latched on to it.”