VanDerveer also honored

Updated: March 9, 2005, 10:30 PM ET
Associated Press

Candice Wiggins grew up closely following the Pac-10. Once she became part of the conference, she had no clue how long it would take her to get comfortable.

The transition took all of two exhibition games for Stanford's new star.

Wiggins became the first freshman to be named Pac-10 Player of the Year on Thursday, and also earned Freshman of the Year honors in voting by the conference's 10 head coaches.

"I definitely am a little shocked," Wiggins said. "It's crazy. I just respect this conference so much. It has so many good players. I grew up watching the players."

Her coach, Tara VanDerveer, was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year. The second-ranked Cardinal head into this weekend's Pac-10 tournament in San Jose, Calif., riding a 17-game winning streak and will be the top seed after winning the conference.

Stanford went unbeaten at home for the first time since 1996-97, the last year the Cardinal reached the Final Four.

Stanford (26-2, 17-1 Pac-10) won its conference games by an average of 24.9 points this season. The Cardinal's 17-game winning streak is the sixth longest in school history and best since Stanford won 22 straight in the 2001-02 season.

Wiggins is a big reason for that.

All the questions she had about how well she would fit in quickly disappeared with one drive to the basket back in November.

"The whole crowd started yelling and I really got chills," Wiggins said. "I thought, 'I think that I'm good now."'

Her teammates and coaches never had any doubts that Wiggins, one of the nation's top prospects out of San Diego, would make a huge impact in her first college season.

"I think our seniors really enjoy playing with Candice," VanDerveer said after Stanford beat Oregon State last weekend. "I told her she can never be a senior, she's a forever freshman."

Wiggins, a 5-foot-11 guard, led the Cardinal in scoring at 17.3 points per game, ranking her second in the Pac-10. She scored a career-high 31 points at Arizona State on Jan. 31 and also had career bests of six assists and six steals in the game.

She admits she still feels like a freshman on the court sometimes despite her improved confidence.

"There's so many things in my game that aren't where they need to be at all," she said. "It's a big challenge coming in and not really knowing what to expect. ... I think I matured pretty fast as a freshman. I think it had a lot to do with the senior leadership we had. They were so established I was able to grow up fast with them."

Wiggins is the daughter of former major league baseball player Alan Wiggins, a star with the San Diego Padres who died of complications from AIDS at 32, about a month before Candice turned 4.

She and her older brother, Alan, who plays basketball for the University of San Francisco, have said they are playing to improve their father's legacy.

"Freshman of the Year, Player of the Year, I think anybody would be hard-pressed to find another vote-getter," Oregon State coach Judy Spoelstra said. "Candice plays defense, offense, shoots from outside, rebounds. I think she's a role model player. She really goes through a game and doesn't make a lot of mistakes."

Wiggins is joined on the all-Pac-10 team by teammates Brooke Smith and Kelley Suminski.

Also making the team were Oregon's Andrea Bills and Cathrine Kraayeveld; UCLA's Nikki Blue and Lisa Willis; Arizona's Shawntinice Polk and Dee-Dee Wheeler; and Arizona State's Emily Westerberg.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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