Filed underJefferson Awards
MARIN CITY (CBS 5) – Teenagers with a North Bay basketball club aren’t just shooting for points. They’re shooting for a good education, thanks to this week’s Jefferson Award winner.
“Keep moving, keep moving!” Orlando Wiggins called out to the teenagers on the basketball court at the Marin City Recreation Center. Under his leadership, the players are scoring points – both on the court, and off.
“When I walk into the gym, I see joy,” Wiggins explained. “I see smiles on these kids’ faces. That makes me happy. That’s why I do this.”
Wiggins is head coach and director of the Southern Marin Lightning, a nonprofit basketball club for low income kids aged 13 to 16. He helped co-found the club ten years ago to keep kids out of trouble.
“Some of the kids weren’t doing that good in school. Since they started to play basketball, that’s when everything turned around,” he remembered.
Wiggins also encourages the players to aim high in education. He said all of the 300 plus kids who have been through this program have been or are going to college.
“I think that’s the best thing about it, he said. “Seeing these kids succeed and go to college.”
“He kinda changed our lives,” added player Garland Duhe. The ten-year team veteran will attend Notre Dame in Belmont on a basketball scholarship. He calls Wiggins his father figure.
“He would call me every weekend, ‘Duhe, whatcha doing? Staying out of trouble? Where you at, Duhe?’” the young man recalled. “Always on my tail. Just kept my head straight.”
Wiggins said he just wants to be the father he himself never had:
“I see it now where kids don’t have their father figure in their life. I try to fill that void for them. It was an emptiness in my life, which at time, I wanted to stray off and do other things. But God gave me the gift to work with kids.”
Players welcome him as a role model. Wiggins works full-time as PE teacher, coaches the Southern Marin Lightning teams, and studies behavioral science full-time at the College of Marin so he can counsel the kids he coaches.
His son, DeMarqus, tries to keep up.
“He gets a 4.0 (GPA)!” DeMarqus Wiggins reported. “I’m just a little under him, 3.5 He’s inspired me to work harder.”
Wiggins led the team to a national championship in the Amateur Athletic Union three years ago. But Derek McIntosh, whose late father co-founded the team, says players will always remember Wiggins’ influence.
“Whenever I have a question about my future, Orlando’s one of the first people I turn to,” McIntosh said.
“I want them to succeed,” added Wiggins. “That’s where my joy come in at. Seeing them succeed, seeing ‘em happy.”
So for guiding Marin County teenagers’ success in hoops and higher education, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Orlando Wiggins.
The Southern Marin Lightning team would appreciate any donations for a new van to transport the team to games. The old van broke down, and since then, parents have been doing all the driving.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)