Last week, one of my guests on the Dishin' and Swishin' show (www.wstrradio.com) was Candice Wiggins. Most know Wiggins for her on court exploits with first Stanford and then the Minnesota Lynx. Despite setbacks in her life and career at various times, she continues to be a role model for people, and an individual determined to take on different challenges and not let anything hold her back.
The Minnesota Lynx started off slowly in 2010, as they integrated new point guard Lindsay Whalen and adjusted to the demands of new head coach Cheryl Reeve. The absence of power forward Rebekkah Brunson, late back from Europe, further impacted the team and they started the season losing four of their first five games. They started to turn things around though, and had won two in a row, when they played at Madison Square Garden vs. the New York Liberty.
In one of those season-changing moments, the Lynx saw their season come crashing down around them. Untouched, guard Candice Wiggins, who had been helping to fill the gap left by the hurting Seimone Augustus by averaging around 14 ppg, fell to the ground, victim of a torn Achilles tendon.
With that one play, the Lynx began the descent from hopeful contender to the number one pick in the lottery once again.
Wiggins came to the Lynx with high expectations. Wade award and Lowe's senior class award winner, All-American, and Stanford's all-time leader in ppg, she was the #3 overall pick for a team starving to make the playoffs. However, the team has still struggled, and the constant shuffling of management, coaches and players has left the team in what feels to fans like a state of perpetual re-building.
Optimism was at an all-time high before last season, with the addition of Coach Reeve from the Detroit Shock, and All-Stars Whalen and Brunson to a team that already had All-Stars Augustus, Charde Houston and Nicky Anosike. Then came the injuries. I talked to Candice about her Achilles, and how the recovery has been progressing.
Candice has been as busy as ever this off-season, however, not just sitting back and resting, but taking on so much more off the court. To begin with, she took the fact she could not go overseas to play this winter as an opportunity to go back to school, and finish the classes remaining to get her degree. Under the best of circumstance, being a student athlete is extremely difficult, never mind being one at an institution that has the stringent academic standards of Stanford University. Candice began her time at Stanford also playing volleyball in addition to basketball, and in fact was on the national championship volleyball team there. I wondered how she could do this and maintain her grades, and I asked her about the difficulty of being a student athlete.
This has been a big season already at Stanford, with their home winning streak at Maples Arena crossing the 50 game plateau, and more obviously, the big win vs. UConn, breaking the 90 game winning streak of the Huskies. This is a Stanford team loaded with talent, guided by one of the best coaches in the history of women's basketball Tara Van Derveer. Long induced into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, rumors are that she will finally take her place among the elite in Springfield at the Naismith Hall of Fame this year. Candice talked about the impact her former coach has had on her both on and off the court.
Throughout that game with Connecticut, the television cameras caught Candice cheering on the Cardinal, along with other luminaries like Jayne Appel and Condeleezza Rice, The atmosphere was electric, and the game exciting; it was what NCAA women's basketball should be. Candice, being senior when current Stanford seniors Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen were freshman, and being on the last team to have defeated UConn, had more than a passing interest in this one. I talked to her about being at Maples that night.
Off the court and out of the classroom, Candice Wiggins has strived for high levels of success as well. She wants to be in the same conversation as Tamika Catchings and Temeka Johnson, two of the most renowned donators of time and resources to charitable causes. Candice has devoted her energies and efforts to several causes, most notably focusing on the area of AIDS awareness and education. It is common knowledge by now that her father, former basetball player Alan Wiggins passed away from the disease, at a time when little information was known about it compared to today. Candice freely discusses her feelings on the need to educate and enlighten, and her participation with several NBA players in the "Greater than" AIDS awareness campaign.
Recently, Candice has announced another, brand new, not previously tried endeavor. She is promoting and participating in the "Candice Wiggins Overseas Experience," a program whereby she plans on taking upwards of 50 people on an 8-day tour of Spain. The trip will include all the "hot spots" and some basketball too, as she hopes to show her fans a little bit of what overseas life WNBA players face when they go play in Europe. Candice can describe it better in her own words, and the excitement in her voice as she talks about it is clearly noticeable!.
Dishin & Swishin: Candice Wiggins on the Candice Wiggins Overseas Experience
First and foremost though, Candice Wiggins, the student, tour guide, and philanthropist, wants to be a basketball player. The 2011 WNBA schedule has been announced, she's rehabbing and the Lynx have the number one pick in the upcoming draft, which most consider will be UConn All-Everything forward Maya Moore. While it is an "unknown" if Moore will be that pick definitely, Candice makes it perfectly clear how excited she is about the upcoming season and the prospects of playing with Moore.
They say that good things come to those who wait, and let's face it, the Lynx fans have waited. They want that first playoff spot badly, and the players on that roster want to give it to them just as badly. Candice Wiggins is just one of those players, but she feels she has some making up to do, coming back from injury. If she has half as much success on the court as she's had off the court this off-season, the Lyn x could be making a long run into the playoffs. We'll have to see what happens, and in the meantime, start saving those pennies to go to Spain!
You can listen to the Dishin & Swishin interview with Candice Wiggins' in its entirety here.