Shivaughn Wiggins knew that to show he had talent, he needed to play against top opponents.
That's why the 5-foot-7 junior decided to transfer to North Mecklenburg, a 4A school, after spending two years at 1A Lake Norman Charter, where he averaged 17.4 points a game last season.
"It's a much faster pace," said Wiggins about playing in 4A. "You see a lot more competition."
The point guard admits he had to work to fit in with the Vikings.
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"It wasn't easy at all," he said, explaining he not only had to get adjusted to his new teammates' personalities but also had to learn coach Duane Lewis' philosophy.
"He likes to play at a fast pace. Everything is about the fast break, the secondary," said Wiggins. "I like playing that way."
The 16-year-old didn't think he would start right away for the Vikings but expected to work his way up; however, he has started the entire season.
Wiggins is averaging nearly 12 points a game, ranking second on the team behind all-conference guard Carlin Bremner's 19.
Wiggins is able to score with the ability to pull up and hit jumpers over defenders - regardless of how much taller they are - as well as drive to the basket and finish strong.
He showed he could step up and score when Bremner was forced to sit out the first three games of 2011 due to an ankle injury. Wiggins averaged 17 points during that stint.
But his biggest contribution to the Vikings may be his passing abilities. The self-described "pass-first point guard" has a knack for finding open teammates and creating easy scoring opportunities. Wiggin leads the team with 7.2 assists a game while contributing nearly four assists a night.
Wiggins said he knows his role on a well-rounded North Meck squad.
"We have people who can knock down shots and big men who can finish, so we don't need a point guard to score 20 every night," he said.
Wiggin's addition to the team may have benefited Bremner the most. Not having to have the ball in his hands constantly, Bremner has been able to focus on scoring.
Having two good ball-handlers also allows North Meck to push the ball against defensive pressure, a tactic Lewis likes.
Heading into last Friday's game at Hough, North Meck had lost only two games - to West Mecklenburg, the No. 2 team in the state, and to Hillcrest, a top-five team in South Carolina.
Wiggins said the team has improved steadily through the year and upset one of the top teams in the area - West Charlotte - last week to claim a share of the top spot in the I-Meck standings.
Behind Bremner, the Vikings seem to be hitting their stride heading into the stretch.
"Carlin has been our best player, but Shivaughn and everybody else has really bought into what we're doing," said Lewis.
The Vikings (17-2, 8-1) have also had help from Kenny Tucker, Jermaine Forte, Tahjai Watt and Karl Barkley, who hit game-winning three-pointers on back-to-back nights to defeat the Lions and Mooresville last week.
"Everybody's stepping up right now," said Wiggins.
Wiggins said he's glad to see the Vikings prove critics who thought the team would have another off year wrong.
Lewis shares that feeling.
"Everybody thought we would be down, but our guys play so hard and have such great chemistry that we feel like we've been one of the best teams in the state," he said.
With Lewis' team playing the way it is, the Vikings hope to be able to finish the season with I-Meck and state titles under their belt.
Wiggins knows what he'll have to do for his team to do that.
"I'm going to have to keep the enthusiasm up - keep everybody pumped during the game," he said. "We're going to have to play together and play good defense."
Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, Wiggins will have another year to show he can accomplish his biggest goal - to play in college. He will be putting in a lot of work to show he belongs.
"I'm going to have to get stronger, faster," said Wiggins. "I'm going to have to step up my game."