Daddy's Girl

Stanford's freshman sensation, guard Candice Wiggins, displays the same spark and drive as her late father, Alan, whom she never got the chance to know
January 31, 2005

People who know Stanford freshman guard Candice Wiggins will tell you she is one of the most competitive people they've ever met. She wants to run faster, jump higher and finish tests quicker than anyone else, and she usually does. (You think six minutes is a good time for solving Rubik's cube? She can do it in two.) ¶ But there is one challenge in her life that she doesn't see as a competition, a puzzle that she may never finish: getting to know her late father, former major leaguer Alan Wiggins. At 32 and with a history of drug abuse, he died from complications of AIDS on Jan. 6, 1991--a month shy of Candice's fourth birthday. "I feel I know him so well, yet I don't really have any idea who he was," says Wiggins. "It's sort of a life quest, to get as much of a picture of him as I can."

Wiggins has a few memories--"flashes," she calls them--related to her father: a hug, a touch. She has snippets of information about him, revealed in stories told by family and friends, and a few videotape impressions, recorded by her uncle, Don. She keeps pictures of her father in a shoe box at home. She knows there are media accounts of her dad's glory days, as well as his downfall, in the vast Internet database, but she's more interested in the facets of her father that wouldn't be in the papers.

Her mother, Angela, and her older sister, Cassandra, have pointed out some of the ways she resembles Alan: facial expressions, speech mannerisms, her competitiveness in playing Monopoly. Other similarities she has seen herself. As a teenager in San Diego she occasionally saw old clips of her father playing for the Padres, including shots of him batting and stealing bases. She'd watch him, slender and tall like herself, sprinting on the balls of his feet as she does. "I asked my mom a lot of questions," she says. "I'd say, 'What do you think he'd think of me playing basketball?' And she'd say, 'Your dad would be at every single one of your games. He would be so proud.'"

He would, no doubt, see a lot of himself on the court. Just as Alan sparked the Padres' lineup two decades ago with his fleet-footed, all-out style of play, his 17-year-old daughter is the catalyst for the fourth-ranked Cardinal (17--2 at week's end). The 5'11" Candice, who scored 23 points in Stanford's 94--58 home win over USC last Saturday, leads the team in scoring (17.4) steals (53), assists (51) and baseline-to-baseline intensity.

"She gives Stanford a transition game," said UCLA's junior guard Nikki Blue, after watching Wiggins score 19 points and make three steals in last Thursday's 100--75 rout of the Bruins in Palo Alto. "She can jump high, she's very physical, she has a nice shot, and she can drive. She's very hard to guard."

"Her energy is effervescent," says Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. "I can put her out there with anybody, and she makes the people around her better."

VanDerveer thinks that her team's chemistry is helped by the fact that Wiggins and freshman reserve guard Jessica Elway are the daughters of professional athletes (box, page 64). "They both understand championship behavior," says VanDerveer. Adds Elway, whose father, John, was a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Denver Broncos, "I think we see the big picture, what the whole team is about, how everyone contributes differently."

Already Wiggins is a crowd favorite. During a presentation of the Stanford men's team at a recent event to unveil the renovated Maples Pavilion, radio broadcaster Bob Murphy pointed his microphone at two school-age boys and asked, "Who's your favorite Stanford player?" It was unanimous: Candice Wiggins.

"I wanted to cry when I heard that," says Wiggins, who was in the stands at the time. "I was floored. To think people already know who I am!"

It's not that surprising, really. A few years ago a stranger sitting next to her in the San Diego airport recognized her and shared his memories of the 1984 Padres. "One thing he said really stuck with me: 'Your dad was so fun to watch,'" says Candice. "It's cool to hear that your dad could make a sport that isn't that exciting to watch"--she smiles apologetically--"exciting to watch. He woke the fans up."

Alan's moment in the spotlight was brief but memorable. In 1983, his first full season in the majors, he hit leadoff and stole 66 bases and was voted the Padres' MVP by his teammates. The next year he was moved from the outfield to second base, stole a club-record 70 bases and scored 106 runs. San Diego won its first National League pennant that year but lost to the Detroit Tigers in a five-game World Series. "Without Alan Wiggins, we don't win anything," says Padres manager Bruce Bochy, a catcher on the '84 team. "He was the guy who ignited us."

On April 25, 1985, Alan failed to show for a game in Los Angeles. Two days later he checked into the Hazelden Foundation, a drug-rehab center in Center City, Minn. It was his second such visit in three years. (He had spent 30 days in rehab in '82, after an arrest for cocaine possession.) After a month at Hazelden and a month with the Padres' Triple A affiliate in Las Vegas, he was traded to Baltimore, where he spent 2 1/2 seasons. On Aug. 31, 1987, he was suspended indefinitely by the commissioner's office for reportedly failing a drug test.

His rise and fall as a player was how most obituaries summed up his life 3 1/2 years later, after AIDS, most likely contracted from intravenous drug use, had reduced his 6'2" frame to 70 pounds. There was little mention of the clubhouse intellectual who could discuss religion, supply-side economics and African-American history; who could swiftly solve the complicated math problems that pitcher Eric Show, a former physics major known as the Professor, drew up on the clubhouse blackboard. And there was little mention of the husband and father who loved his family.

"I know my dad had a lot of personal problems," says Candice, "but I also know he really loved us." She knows, too, that her dad was dedicated to baseball from his youth. "That's where I really see the similarities between Alan and Candice," says Don, who grew closer to Candice and her two siblings after his brother died. (Candice's brother, Alan Jr., is a year older than she is). "Once they locked into something, they would do whatever it took to improve their game, to be the best athlete."

A few years after Alan died, Angela signed up Cassandra, then a sixth-grader, for rec basketball. Candice, a six-year-old second-grader, begged to be included. So Angela fudged Candice's age and got her on a team of third- and fourth-graders. That first year she scored one basket all season. The next season she dominated the older kids, scoring 32 points in one game.

Angela pushed all three of her children to work hard at basketball, waking them at 5 a.m. so they could shoot baskets in the driveway of their Poway home. "Even though she was smaller and younger than me, Candice couldn't stand to lose to me in one-on-one," says Cassandra, who played for two years at NYU before graduating last summer. In eighth grade Candice was the only girl on the San Diego Rising Stars AAU team for which her brother also played. She started; he didn't. "She was better than a lot of the dudes on the team," says Alan, a 6'8" sophomore and the starting center at the University of San Francisco. "If we needed a three-point shot, we'd go to her."

In four years at La Jolla Country Day, where she also was a standout in volleyball and track, Wiggins averaged 30.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, 6.7 steals and 4.4 assists. She led the Torreys to two Class 5 state titles and two Class 4 state finals. In her senior year she was named Ms. California Basketball. But she has rarely ever been satisfied with her performance. "She would score 40, and the first thing she'd think was, 'God, I missed four free throws, and I turned the ball over!'" says La Jolla Country Day coach Terri Bamford. "That's going to drive her to be one of the best players in the country."

Her exacting standards, it should be noted, do not get in the way of her having a good time on the floor. "There are a lot of competitive people on this team, but what separates her is she gets so vocal and emotional about it," says junior guard Clare Bodensteiner. "She gets so excited about stuff, sometimes I find myself laughing at her."

Wiggins knows she gets that from her dad, though he wasn't as gregarious as she is. "One thing I've learned from my dad's absence is to really appreciate what you have," she says. "Appreciate life, appreciate all the God-given talents you have, appreciate your family, because you don't know what can happen."

She often thinks about fate. "I have friends who have fathers who are alive but aren't present in their lives at all," says Wiggins. "Maybe they have bad relationships with their fathers, but there is time to fix it. There's nothing I can do about my relationship with my dad."

What she can do, and what she is determined to do, is give people a clearer understanding of who her father was. "We want people to know how good a father he was," says Alan Jr., "how good a person he was. My sisters and I want people to say, 'Man, he had three great kids.'"

With her accomplishments on the basketball court, Alan Jr. says, Candice "is lifting our father's name up." She's also making a name for herself.

DRIBBLING Daughters

Candice Wiggins is one of a number of daughters of pro athletes and/or coaches playing college basketball. Here are some of the most prominent.

Candice Wiggins is one of a number of daughters of pro athletes and/or coaches playing college basketball. Here are some of the most prominent.

PLAYER      POS.     SCHOOL      PARENTS

MEAGAN COWHER G-F PRINCETON Steelers coach Bill, former N.C. State forward Kaye

A four-time Ivy League rookie of the week, 6'1" freshman was leading Tigers at week's end with 12.8 scoring average, including 28-point outburst against St. Peter's on Jan. 3

KATIE DIERDORF F MICHIGAN NFL Hall of Fame tackle Dan

Six-foot freshman was establishing herself as post presence for dad's alma mater, averaging 3.4 rebounds, before hip injury on Dec. 14 sidelined her indefinitely

JESSICA ELWAY G-F STANFORD NFL Hall of Fame quarterback John

Having followed her pop to Palo Alto, 5'10" freshman has mostly been sitting (5.1 minutes per game) and waiting on talent-laden No. 4 Cardinal

NIKKI LUCKHURST G TULANE Former NFL kicker Mick, golfer Terri Hancock

Georgia's 2004 Class 2A player of the year, 5'8" freshman had season highs of five rebounds and four assists, plus two steals, in 12 minutes last Friday against DePaul

MICHELLE MUñOZ F OHIO STATE NFL Hall of Fame tackle Anthony

Rugged defender for No. 3 Buckeyes, 5'11" junior (who transferred from Tennessee two years ago) was also shooting 54.1% from three-point range

JENNIFER NELMS G NORTH CAROLINA Former NFL All-Pro kick returner Mike

Sparkplug off the bench for No. 12 Tar Heels, 5'7" junior is also member of school's 4√ó400 relay team and was 2003 All-America in track

KHARA SMITH F DEPAUL Former NBA forward Ken Norman

Conference USA's preseason pick for player of the year, 6'2" junior was leading Blue Demons in scoring (18.9 points per game), rebounding (11.3) and steals (2.4)

TIFFANY STANSBURY F-C N.C. STATE Former NBA guard Terence

A juco transfer, 6'3" junior topped Wolfpack in scoring (11.4 points per game) and rebounding (7.1); scored 16 on Sunday in 67--55 win at Maryland

WYNTER WHITLEY F-C DUKE Late NFL tackle Wilson

A valuable reserve, 6'2" senior was averaging 5.4 points and 3.3 boards for top-ranked Blue Devils; had four steals and two blocks in 66--58 win over Penn State on Nov. 19

COLOR PHOTOJACQUELINE DUVOISIN (ALAN WIGGINS) Like her dad, a former leadoff man, Candice is a catalyst. COLOR PHOTOPhotographs by John W. McDonough   [See caption above] COLOR PHOTOPhotographs by John W. McDonough CHILD'S PLAY The 17-year-old Wiggins has emerged as a relentless competitor and an emotional leader for the nation's fourth-ranked team. COLOR PHOTOPhotographs by John W. McDonough Elway and Wiggins

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)