The story of this Stanford Women's Basketball season has been as much a medical report as a basketball tale. At the forefront has been the repeated injuries to star junior guard Candice Wiggins: feet, ankles and hamstrings. At this time last week, it looked like Wiggins could miss one or both of Stanford's games in Oregon with a sprained ankle. She started the Oregon State game on Thursday in street clothes and watched her Cardinal fall behind by as many as 11 points.
Emerging from the locker room at halftime in her uniform, Wiggins made a surprise and inspired second-half appearance for nine minutes of play in Corvallis. The two-time All-American promptly hit a three-pointer and sparked Stanford to run ahead and win, 70-55. Wiggins 40 hours later played 34 minutes and scored 17 points in Eugene.
But as has been the case all season, the Candice Wiggins injury turnstile continues to turn. As soon as one injury improves, another erupts.
"Her ankle is doing well. Her hamstring bothered her," reports head coach Tara VanDerveer. "She's really out this week. We have to make a decision even if she could play whether she will play."
"It always seems like it's something," VanDerveer laments of Wiggins' injury-riddled season, which has included a previous injury of this same hamstring. Wiggins frayed a tendon connecting her hamstring to her knee on December 16 in the Utah game and sat out both games the next week at UCLA and USC. Ironically, those same Bruins (Thursday) and Trojans (Sunday) are on the slate for this week's games at Maples Pavilion. A hamstring injury could twice in the same season sit Wiggins, a Southern California native, against the L.A. schools.
"It's a mystery injury to me," VanDerveer comments on the hamstring. "It's not 100 percent. And her ankle is not 100 percent either. Right now, her hamstring is more of a concern than her ankle."
We heard ominous warnings from VanDerveer after Wiggins' ankle sprain, yet she ended up playing in both games in Oregon. That does not mean that VanDerveer's injury outlook should be taken lightly. Wiggins was dressed in street clothes for a reason in Corvallis. Only after Stanford struggled did the junior guard pull a Superman phone booth surprise. Clearly there was a desire on the part of the Cardinal coaching to rest Wiggins at Oregon State, if only the team's performance would comply.
It stands to reason that this week could present a similar situation. Stanford on paper is playing for a Pac-10 title, but with a 15-1 conference record and a season sweep already in hand of second-place Arizona State, Cardinal eyes are on a postseason prize. There is much to be gained by resting Wiggins and letting her multi-injured body heal. The healthier and better performing Wiggins is for Stanford in the NCAA Tournament, the farther they can advance.
Wiggins is a tremendous fighter and competitor and will play if the decision is hers to make. So the question falls to the coaching staff. Is this team, who has won four straight and has recently enjoyed the emergence of freshman point guard Melanie Murphy, ready and able to take care of this week's opponents without Wiggins? UCLA is up first on Thursday, and the Bruins enter with losing records in both conference (7-9) and overall (13-15) play. USC is three days later on Sunday, and though they have had their own share of costly injuries this year, the Trojans look like a potential NCAA Tournament team at 16-10 overall with a 10-6 Pac-10 record. Stanford beat both teams in Los Angeles in December without Wiggins.
"We're in a situation where we are playing at home and I think we're playing better," VanDerveer offers. "I think people really have a good sense of what we're supposed to be doing and how we're supposed to play. I think that she could play this weekend, but I don't know that she will."
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