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Laurel's Whitney Wiggins dances her way to the NBA

DanceBasketballNBABrooklyn NetsPaul Pierce

Whitney Wiggins attended Laurel High School for a year and then enrolled in the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington.

But after two years at Ellington she headed for the small central Virginia town of Lynchburg. That move helped propel her to a career in New York City.

As a senior at E.C. Glass High, a public school in Lynchburg, she enrolled in the Virginia School for the Arts on a partial scholarship. She was a long way from home and did not know anyone when she headed to Virginia.

"You are far away from your family, living in a house with a bunch of girls from all over," said Wiggins. "Maryland is more fast-paced. Lynchburg is a lot slower."

"She was the only black female in the group," said her mother, Althea. There were about 30 students in the Glass program, mostly women.

Wiggins eventually moved to the Big Apple after high school and studied with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She graduated last year and is certified to teach dance as well as perform as an Alvin Ailey graduate.

And earlier this year she was named to the roster of the dance team for the Brooklyn Nets, a member of the National Basketball Association.

Wiggins had tried out but did not make the team prior to the 2012-13 season.

"I went back again this year and tried again," she said. "Out of about 300, I made the final round of 20. There are 20 on the team and 12 members per game."

Wiggins, 22, knows a little bit about basketball. Her boyfriend, Rodney Epperson, played basketball at St. John's University in New York and in pro leagues in France and the Dominican Republic. "I have become more and more informed," she says of hoops.

The Nets now play their home games in the Barclays Center, and tryouts for the dance team were held at Long Island University in Brooklyn.

"Whitney's strong technical background is one of the reasons we felt she would make a great Brooklynette," Adar Wellington, coach of the Brooklynettes, said in a statement. "We look for women who are athletic dancers, technically trained and diverse in many styles of dance. At auditions, Whitney proved she has what it takes. I can't wait to work with her this season."

Wiggins said she is looking forward to being a member of the Brooklynettes. Members of the team come from various backgrounds and try to attend as many of the 41 home games as possible, working around schedules in other lines of work or class schedules.

"I think it will be interesting. Our lives are about to change," said Wiggins, whose parents live in Laurel. "I am really trying to focus on what they brought me in for. They are always looking for a good look: fresh face, nice hair, good skin, nice body tone. They like very strong dancers, and a great smile."

And it could be an exciting year on the court as the Nets have added NBA veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko to the roster since the end of last season and hired Jason Kidd, a former NBA star, as the new head coach.

In addition to the dance team, Wiggins works out with a personal trainer, Troy Brooks, and takes ballet classes.

Wiggins, who attended Laurel Elementary, was 7 when she took her first dance class at Fort Meade. Her mother gave her the option of cheerleading or taking dance classes.

"I was just going since my mother signed me up for it," she said. "I was really behind since I had never danced before. I was really distraught about it. ... After a year they moved me up to kids my age. I was so happy and felt so accomplished."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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