- National Teams
Derby Trailblazers have paid tribute to Clarence Wiggins, after their former player and coach passed away at the age of 58 on December 29th.
Wiggins, born in North Carolina, came to the UK in 1983 to join the Trailblazers and went on to play a big role in basketball in the city inspiring youngsters, having initially been recruited over 30 years ago by then City of Derby Basketball Head Coach Chris Squire.
“Clarence was unbelievably respected and loved throughout the basketball community and further afield,” Squire said. “He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and I think anyone whose life he touched would think likewise. We are all deeply shocked. It’s just a tremendous loss to the game, to the school, to all those who’ve been close to him and of course to his wife CJ.
“I was Head Coach here in 1983, which was the first year we played big time national league here in Derby. I had one American from Methodist College in North Carolina and I was looking for a second one and I was told Clarence might be available.
“I called him and the first thing I had to do was to convince him not to call me Sir! We flew him over in October 1983 and the rest is history. He was just a great player and I think the greatest compliment I can pay him is that he was a truly great teacher of the game.”
Wiggins moved to Cleveland after three years at Derby as a player, before returning as player-coach, whilst becoming a teacher at a local school, Noel-Baker.
“The kids just loved him,” Squire added. “Whether you were one of his students or one of his players, everybody’s opinions about him were the same. He made school life fun and he had an uncanny way of making people believe in their own ability and by doing so, to achieve more than they believed was possible.”
Tributes have been flooding in on the club’s Facebook page, as well as a special tribute page ‘R.I.P Clarence Wiggins, A True Gentleman’. Trailblazers Chairman Charlie Wright also added his respects for Wiggins.
“He was a terrific player in his day and he subsequently channelled his love for the game into coaching other people. I think we can safely say that no single person has played a more significant role in the development of basketball in the city of Derby.
“He will be greatly missed both as a coach and teacher but perhaps more importantly, many young and not so young people will also miss him as a friend, a character and as an inspirational person. We were all devastated by the news and want to offer our sincere condolences to his wife CJ and both families.”
Image credit: Alan Mousley