Wiggins on verge of breaking Pac-10 scoring record

Updated: February 29, 2008, 2:22 PM ET
Associated Press

STANFORD, Calif. -- Candice Wiggins has looked up to Lisa Leslie ever since she was a kid, watching her hero star in the Olympics and help build the WNBA.

By the end of this weekend, Wiggins could be looking down at Leslie on the Pac-10 career scoring list. Wiggins needs 37 points this weekend during a road trip to Washington and Washington State to break Leslie's conference scoring record.

"She was just the first recognizable player for me," Wiggins said. "Who didn't know who Lisa Leslie was? She did so much for the game. When I grew up she was one of the first people you could say, 'They're a professional athlete. I want to aspire to be like them when I get older.' You don't go into a program like Stanford expecting to break a record of a legend. She's obviously one of the greatest ever to play the game."

Now Wiggins has become someone other players aspire to be like. And with good reason.

She has been one of the top players in the nation ever since she arrived at Stanford as a freshman in 2004. The daughter of former baseball player Alan Wiggins, Candice has been a second-team All-American her first three years in college.

Her 2,378 points trail only the 2,414 Leslie scored during her brilliant career at Southern California. Cheryl Miller did score 3,018 career points at USC, but that predated the start of Pac-10 women's basketball in 1986-87.

Wiggins' play has created many fans during her time at Stanford, including some from her biggest rival.

"She's one of those people you have to look up to," California guard Alexis Gray-Lawson said. "I hope she breaks the record. She deserves everything that she gets. There are a lot of great guards I've played against my whole life but she tops it off. She's somebody who can shoot and get to the basket. You don't get that all the time with guards."

As great a scorer as Wiggins is, she does so much else for the seventh-ranked Cardinal (25-3, 14-2 Pac-10). Whether it's handling the ball, defending one of the opposition's top players or teaching her younger teammates, coach Tara VanDerveer called Wiggins an "absolute joy to coach."

"Scoring that many points is fabulous and I hope that she is in fact able to break the record," VanDerveer said. "But Candice is so much more than that and I'm glad that she is. There are a lot of very talented players that are maybe even 'All-American' in terms of their play but lack a lot of other things in terms of being great teammates or being people you really enjoy coaching."

Some of the other coaches in the conference will be happy to see Wiggins leave. She is expected to be one of the top picks in the WNBA draft and in the running for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said after losing once again to Wiggins and the Cardinal earlier this month that she would give Wiggins "the biggest graduation present" of anyone.

Washington State coach June Dougherty, who has coached in the conference for 18 years, called Wiggins one of the five best players she's seen in the Pac-10.

"She's one of those really special unique players that don't come along too often," Dougherty said. "She's athletic, she's so competitive, she's versatile. She has no problem putting 40 on you or setting her teammates up with 40 assists."

Wiggins has bigger goals than the scoring record. Her list of individual accomplishments is already lengthy: two-time Pac-10 player of the year, preseason All-American, decorated international player.

About the only feat missing revolves around her team's success in the NCAA tournament. The Cardinal have not made it to the Final Four in Wiggins' career, even losing at home to Florida State in the second round last year.

Wiggins hopes to end Stanford's 10-year Final Four drought. She hopes to have 11 games remaining in her career, meaning the Cardinal would make it all the way to the NCAA championship game.

"This is the last imprint, the lasting memories that you will have," she said. "The way you leave Stanford is the way you're going to remember it. This team is so different. Everyone is having so much fun playing together. Every game is so much fun. I'm just cherishing every moment I have."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press