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."