Cardinal QuickChat #2

We caught up with Stanford guards Candice Wiggins and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude just prior to practice two days before their next game at Arizona to get their thoughts on the state of the team, that Tennessee overtime, knees, and poorly positioned rodents.

Stanford senior guard Candice Wiggins has earned herself many notable awards during her exceptional career. Recently she added two more honors to her burgeoning collection. Wiggins was named WBCA Player of the Month for December 2007 for her scintillating play as the Cardinal went undefeated for the month and finally knocked off Tennessee after a decade of trying. Even closer to Wiggins' heart was another recent honor, as she was named USA Basketball's 2007 Female Athlete of the Year for her efforts on four USA Basketball teams (2007 U21 World Championships, 2007 Pan American Games, 2007-08 Senior National Team, and lone alternate for the 2007 FIBA Americas Championships). Wiggins said of the USA Basketball award, "That was amazing because my whole childhood growing up was committed to hopefully one day being able to play for USA Basketball and the Olympic team. This accomplishment does mean a lot to me, especially because I respect all the players they could have chosen. They have great talent this year so it is a huge honor."

After that smoking December, the Cardinal surprisingly hit a cooler in Los Angeles. The team did not play with the intensity level they needed against UCLA, recovered somewhat against USC, but still came home with two losses. asked Wiggins if she ever sees signs before a game that indicate a struggle might be in store, that the team may not be at their best. "You can never know for a team. You never go into a game thinking ‘Oh, are we going to be ready?' No one can prepare for that. You can only prepare for yourself," responded Wiggins. "The biggest thing about the road that causes problems for teams is that you are not in your own home so you have to provide your own energy. For me that's probably the biggest test, how much energy we have in warm-ups. If there is a lackluster effort then you know there were warning signs. We really work as a team on providing our own energy. We're great at home and that's wonderful, but you have to be able to win on the road too. That's something we're working on."

Wiggins is very happy with her Cardinal at this stage of the season. "One bad road trip is not going to end our season. This is a great, special team. I can say that. I've been here four years and I know this team," she declared. "We don't quit. We don't quit on each other. Our coaches don't quit on us. I'm very happy with where we are right now. I think we're growing. We're getting better. Our goal at the end of the season is where our focus is."

So what will it take to win the Pac-10 title now that the Card are down two games to Cal and Arizona State in the standings? "It's just going to mean us taking it one game at a time. We can't really look ahead because in the long run you have to beat everybody anyway. You have to be consistent, so for right now it's going to take us taking it one game at a time and being very consistent," said Wiggins.

Those of you who get one of the beautiful media guides produced by the program every season may have noticed that in last season's edition various players listed their favorite of head coach Tara VanDerveer's basketball sayings. Most were simple to decipher, but one had us stumped. Although it was not the one Wiggins' chose, we decided to go ahead and inquire anyway. Exactly what does "Don't be a squirrel on the wrong side of the tree." mean? Wiggins laughed and said, "That is a Tara quote, first of all. It's mostly directed towards post players, and I'm not a post player, but…" But she was happy to explain and even demonstrate, taking up a post defender's pose and showing the number on the back of her jersey. "When playing defense, we are taught to show our numbers. If you are not showing your numbers, if you're behind, [VanDerveer] is saying the offensive player is the tree and you don't want to be a squirrel stuck on the wrong side so that if they pass the ball in, you have to scramble and fight back position or you'll end up being caught. That is the gist of it. The imagery is used to help you see that you don't want to be a squirrel, running around chasing the offensive player." Now we do see how rodents on trees relate to basketball, and the skittering squirrel image does seem apt for an out of position post defender scrambling once the ball has been passed inside.

Junior (or perhaps red-shirt sophomore) guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude has come back after missing all of the 2006-07 season to start at point guard for the Cardinal. The highlight of her season thus far has to be the overtime of that thrilling win against Tennessee, when Gold-Onwude scored virtually all of Stanford's points. asked Gold-Onwude about her scoring explosion and what her thoughts were during that tense overtime. "I didn't even realize that until after the game, when someone told me I scored a good majority of the points," said Gold-Onwude. "I think that was one of the first games this season...I didn't play last season, so in a while, where I just wasn't really worrying about anything. My feet were moving to get ready for the shot before the ball was even passed to me. I was one play ahead. Things were a bit slower. Just total confidence – no doubts."

Has it been difficult getting her confidence and mental edge back after missing one whole season rehabbing after knee surgery? "Of course. You know sometimes they say you could be a confident player, but I feel that confidence comes from experience, not necessarily confidence maybe, but knowing who you are as a player. I'm just trying to define that for myself in games. It's been a while so a game like [Tennessee] or any other positive game with a win where I helped the team get that win, helps me figure out what my role is, what I'm trying to do in basketball with this team."

Gold-Onwude says her knee is totally fine now after a longer rehab than originally anticipated. "It took me a while. I had some setbacks," explained Gold-Onwude. "I had some issues with my bone. I couldn't load weight on it for a while so we just had to stop rehab and let the bone irritations like chill out after the surgery. That really slowed things down. I kind of moved backwards in rehab, so I pretty much added a couple of months on, and it was pretty frustrating."

It has also been painful and frustrating for Gold-Onwude to see two more of her teammates (Michelle Harrison and Melanie Murphy) incur season-ending knee injuries this year. Said Gold-Onwude, "Of course we try to be there for them. It's really sad that two more people had to go down, especially Mel, another point guard. It's like here you are, still another point guard has gone down with that." Perhaps mercifully, before we could continue to lament the long line of ACL victims, particularly among Stanford point guards, Gold-Onwude was summoned to begin practice and trotted off to join her teammates.

Your semi-intrepid reporter also trotted away, thinking not of knees, but of squirrels, skittering little squirrels, forlornly hanging onto the bark on the wrong side of the tree, noses twitching in confusion. They should have shown their numbers. We envision those squirrels in Arizona and Arizona State uniforms, of course.

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