In 1985, Marita Payne-Wiggins proudly accepted a Harry Jerome Award for sports excellence in the presence of her now deceased parents – Clarence and Ina Payne – and the late Dr. Walter McNeilly who was her physician.
Nearly three decades later, Barbadian-born Payne-Wiggins and her husband Mitchell Wiggins accompanied their 19-year-old son Andrew to the 32nd annual awards last Saturday night where he was recognized for basketball excellence.
The teenager, who has declared for this year’s National Basketball Association (NBA) draft in June after just one year with the Kansas Jayhawks, is expected to be the number one pick.
“I have a lot of fond memories of that night when I got my award,” said Payne-Wiggins. “It was awesome but at the same time these things are generational as I now have my son following in my footsteps 29 years later.”
The fourth of six children, Wiggins is the most hyped hoops star to emerge from Canada. He was the top-ranked high school player in the United States prior to entering college.
“I am so proud of what Andrew has accomplished,” said his mom who graduated from Vaughan Road Academy and was a provincial senior champion in the 100- and 200-metre events in 1979. “You always hope that your kids can achieve even greater success than you. We are blessed.”
Wiggins’ older brothers – Mitchell Jr. and Nick – played basketball at Southeastern University and Wichita State last season.
The apple does not fall far from the tree when it comes to the Wiggins’ boys.
Their father averaged 23 points and nine rebounds at Florida State and played six seasons in the NBA after being the Indiana Pacers 23rd pick in the 1983 draft. He finished his career overseas.
Payne-Wiggins also attended Florida State on a track scholarship and was the fastest female in the Western hemisphere in the 400-metres event with a time of 50.06 secs. before her final year at Florida where she joined her husband in the university’s Hall of Fame in 1991.
She won silver medals for Canada in the 4×100 and 4×400-metre events at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and finished fourth in the 400-metre final in 49.91 secs. which is a Canadian record she shares with Jillian Richardson.
The two-time Canadian 400-metre champion was part of the 4×400-metre gold medal team at the 1986 Commonwealth Games and she holds the national 200-metre record of 22.62 secs. established in Edmonton in July 1983.
A park in Vaughan which bears Payne-Wiggins’ name is testimony to her athletic prowess and the high esteem in which she is held.
Now it’s time for her young son to shine and create his own legacy.