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Wiggins Planning Big Sophomore Year

November 13, 2005|From Associated Press

STANFORD — Not until Candice Wiggins made a brief stop at home this summer did she realize how many people paid attention to her sensational freshman season at Stanford.

Strangers approached while she feasted on fish tacos at her favorite Mexican food place, at the shopping mall and when she ran errands.

"I was in San Diego for about 10 days," Wiggins said. "I think that's when it settled in, when you have people from home, and who you knew before, constantly come up to you and tell you what a big deal you are. That means a lot."

Wiggins has been a big deal for years, and last season not only earned conference freshman of the year honors but became the first freshman to be named Pac-10 player of the year.

Tara VanDerveer, in her 20th year coaching at Stanford, predicted all along that the 5-foot-11 1/2 guard could be the most athletic player to come through her program.

"The best thing about Candice is she's a very humble person," VanDerveer said. "She doesn't have medalitis, when you have too much hardware. For some freshmen, the worst thing that can happen is they have too much success."

Wiggins comes by her talent naturally. She is the daughter of the late Alan Wiggins, a former major league baseball player who abused drugs and died of complications from AIDS at 32, about a month before Candice turned 4. She is playing in his honor, determined to repair his tarnished image.

And Wiggins has big plans to get better as a sophomore. The rest of the league coaches are quick to say that Stanford will keep winning as long as Wiggins is on campus wearing Cardinal red.

When Wiggins arrived last fall, she insisted she had no idea what to expect at the college level -- though everyone around the Stanford program had little doubt she would fit in just fine.

Wiggins led the Cardinal in scoring with 17.5 points per game. She also averaged 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.4 steals, and even blocked 19 shots to help Stanford reach the round of eight in the NCAA tournament for the second straight season. She was a second-team All-American.

"I felt that I was kind of raw," Wiggins said. "It's really different coming into a season not knowing what to expect and just sort of going off intangible things like playing hard and being competitive. Now, sort of seeing the game from a different perspective, you're more mature and you handle things differently."

Wiggins headed into the offseason with quite a to-do list: Shoot better. Improve decision making. Cut down on silly mistakes and fouls. She spent the summer honing her skills with the Under-19 U.S. World Championship team, which won gold in Tunisia.

"She had a big summer and played a lot of games. And if you know anything about Candice, when she plays, she plays hard," teammate Clare Bodensteiner said. "I didn't know how much better she could get. She's relentless out there."

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