Colin Higgins named Sport New Brunswick male athlete of the year

Mizzou wheelchair basketball standout Colin Higgins dominates on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.

  • Colin Higgins plays basketball in Mizzou gear
    Mizzou wheelchair basketball student-athlete Colin Higgins, SportNB’s 2021 “Male Athlete of the Year,” shoots a free throw against Illinois in the 2019 National Wheelchair Basketball Championships.

Jan. 10, 2022
Contact: Marcus Wilkins, wilkinsm@missouri.edu

Like so many youngsters growing up in hockey-mad Canada, Colin Higgins dreamed of an athletic future on the ice detonating slapshots. He never envisioned one atop 60-centimeter wheels drilling 3-pointers for his home country during the Paralympics.

Higgins — wheelchair basketball star for the University of Missouri and Team Canada — was recently named Male Athlete of the Year by Sport NB, a volunteer organization supporting athletics in his home province of New Brunswick, Canada. But it was a freak accident that led him to the sport.

“I was running, and I sort of ‘ate it’ on a curb, blowing out my ACL, LCL and MCL and resulting in some nerve damage,” said Higgins of the knee injury that gave him a permanent foot disability, too. “My mom is a nurse who works with an occupational therapist big into the wheelchair basketball scene. She encouraged me to pick up the sport. I was reluctant at first, but I gave it a try.”

Higgins, who hails from Rothesay in the southern part of New Brunswick, averaged seven points and played in all seven of Canada’s contests at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. He is classified as a 4.5 in the world of wheelchair basketball, meaning he is in the category of least impairment (category 1 being the most impaired athlete). In the National Wheelchair Basketball Association framework, teams are allowed a maximum of 14 points total among players on the court at a given time.

“I could walk past you and you’d never know I was a wheelchair basketball player,” said Higgins, a junior in sport management. “But I fell in love with the sport. If you’ve seen it at all, you know it’s super-aggressive and fast-paced.”

Mizzou’s wheelchair basketball head coach, Ron Lykins, who recruited Higgins and encouraged him to pursue international competition, said it’s difficult to separate the person from the athlete when describing his squad’s natural leader.

“Colin is very serious and dedicated to what he’s doing, and he is committed to being the best player he can be,” Lykins said. “Obviously that means practicing with his teammates, but it’s also the extra things: weightlifting, coming in for additional shooting, nutrition. On the court, Colin has great vision and instincts, and he’s fearless. He is an excellent representative for our program.”

“Colin had an amazing year in 2021, working hard in the face of many challenges,” read a statement from the Sport NB selection committee. “He was the only male New Brunswicker to attend the Tokyo games, helping Team Canada to an eighth-place finish. He showed great talent, played with incredible grit and made New Brunswick proud.”

After a nearly two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Mizzou wheelchair basketball tips off the 2022 season Jan. 28 and 29 when they host a round-robin tournament featuring the University of Texas at Arlington, Southwest Minnesota State University and Auburn University in MU’s historic Brewer Fieldhouse.

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