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Candice Wiggins: Ball isn't always life

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Her fiery spirit is evident on the court, but it’s never left there. With a successful career in the WNBA, and more to come, Candice Wiggins has a love for basketball, but more importantly a love for life.

Chris Poss

Greenburgh, NY -- If it were your last day on earth, would you be able to say you lived life to the fullest? If you ask Candice Wiggins, she'll respond with an ardent, "Yes."

Watching her on the court is almost as entertaining as watching her lift her players up court-side. After Hearing her teammates speak so highly of her throughout the season - even describing her as the anchor of team, I had to find out more.

Who is Candice Wiggins, and does that energy follow her everywhere?

By merely looking at her Wikipedia page, you could imagine she has experienced just about everything the world of basketball has to offer, but there is much more to the New York Liberty Guard from Maryland.

Candice was born in Baltimore into a baseball family. Her father played for the Orioles, but moved their family to San Diego after finishing his career with the Padres. So where did this love for basketball come from? Shortly after her father died of AIDS, her mother searched for a way to protect her children.

"After my dad died, My mom was struggling with the Wiggins identity and baseball," Candice explained. "Magic Johnson made his announcement in '91, and that was a huge deal. It stood out in my mother's eyes, and she saw it as a way for us to escape baseball, and protect us from my father's past. That's when we became a basketball family."

Though Candice was not old enough to participate like her siblings, her mother signed her up nonetheless. It wasn't long before she was winning championships, with both girls AND boys teams.

"That's when I realized I had something and basketball could really take me far," she said. "In the same year I won the championship with an all girls AAU team, as well as the BIC championship with the boys team I played on. It didn't matter that I was the smallest one on the court, or maybe even the weakest."

Candice started to understand what her value was. She found ways to be effective, despite her size. She realized she could play great defense, and recalls the thrill she got from ripping the star player of the other team at half court and going for a layup, or hitting a three in someone's face. "That's how I became mentally tough and confident," she said."

Once it was clear that basketball could take her further than high school and travel teams, she set her eyes on college ball. Though she was heavily recruited by the best in the country, one school stood out. She began to dedicate all of her time and energy towards playing in Maples Pavilion.

"I fell in love with Maples and Stanford. I went there for the first time as a freshman in high school, and I can't describe the energy I felt. However, unlike most schools you can't just say you want to play ball there and go. You have to get in."

For four years, She put everything she had into school and basketball -- even spending as long as four months finishing her application to Stanford. As you can guess, all of that hard work paid off, and she went on to have the ultimate experience there, and not just as a basketball star. If you ever ask her about her time spent there as an athlete AND a student, you are sure to hear the passion in her voice.

"I worked so hard all through high school to get to that point. I was going to enjoy it," she laughed. "I loved being amongst all of my fellow students. I studied hard, of course, and worked hard on the court, but I also played volleyball, I pledged Delta (Sigma Theta), and had many friends that weren't athletes. I really wanted to make the most of my experience.

"Then my senior year we made it to the Final Four for the first time since ‘97. My career high was in my last game at Maples. It was an amazing way to end my four years, and I'm so proud of my time there."

After an outstanding career at Stanford, she was drafted third overall in 2008 by the Minnesota Lynx. She had lived and breathed basketball since age 5, and made it to the WNBA. She didn't even know what life away from the court was, until June 2010.

"We were in Madison Square Garden about to finish a game against the Liberty, when I ruptured my Achilles' tendon. Up until that point I had been going and going and going," she explained. "I did everything full speed, and I had never taken a break from basketball. I was flying, and suddenly everything stopped, and I was grounded. It was like I had a glass leg. I literally couldn't do anything."

This is where many of us hear about athletes going through depression. We hear about how their sport defines them, and without it, they have a hard time figuring out who they are. For Wiggins, this was the most defining point of her life. Her enthusiasm when speaking about the uncertainty of her future actually gave this writer a reality check.

"I got a call from head coach Tara VanDeveer at Stanford. She told me to come back and finish school. I went back as a student, and it was like I had a second life. I had a whole new identity, and attitude. Everything wasn't so fast paced. I started thinking about who I was outside of basketball. It was crazy, but it was fun.

"I wasn't sad. I didn't go through depression, and people were shocked I was taking it so well."

Wiggins was excited to release her basketball identity. There was confidence about what came next, but she also knew she wasn't quite done with this chapter. She came back with a whole new appreciation for the game. While everyone else was living in a one-dimensional basketball world, she was in a three-dimensional one, but existing with the rest of them.

It's now 2015, and as a guard for the New York Liberty, she finds herself playing in the Arena where that defining injury occurred back in 2010.

"Though I know what life may look like beyond basketball, I am so in this moment. I feel like I am a part of something so special with the Liberty. I feel like I'm on Mount Everest, and this is the peak," She explains. "We are all together for this common goal. My teammates humble me, my role on this team is humbling, and that is what defines me. Not basketball, but the way I live each moment out every day, on the court and away from it."

Whether it's watching her on the court, lifting her teammates, or simply speaking in an interview, her passion and love for life is undeniable as well as inspiring. Wiggins is not just her Wikipedia page. She is someone who knows how to live, and glide along the twists and turns that life may throw.

When Candice was asked if she had any regrets;

"I don't regret nothing. I never miss anything. There is not a day that I push through. I live every moment in its existence. We only get one chance at this."