Wiggins just ninth freshman to earn Kodak honor

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer called Candice Wiggins to tell her that she had been selected as a Kodak All-American, the freshman sensation almost dropped the phone.

Wiggins had already garnered Pac-10 Player of the Year and second-team AP All-America honors, and was the USBWA's co-National Freshman of the Year. But to add her name to the list of just nine players -- including legends such as Cheryl Miller, Lynette Woodard, Janet Harris, Katie Smith, Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and LaToya Thomas -- to earn Kodak honors in their freshman season?

"When Tara told me, I was like, 'No, stop it! Shut up! Get out of here.' It was just crazy," Wiggins said Saturday morning following the presentation of her Kodak award at the Westin Hotel. "It was just weird."

Even more weird for Wiggins was to be in Indianapolis without her teammates. Second-seeded Stanford fell to No. 1 seed Michigan State 76-69 in the Kansas City Regional final.

"Yeah, it's hard [to be here]," said Wiggins, who led the Cardinal with 19 points in that losing effort Tuesday. "The first thing I saw when I came off the plane was the sign that said 'And then there was four.' I got really sick.

"I thought we should be here. I respect the teams who are here, they're great. We're just going to have to come back next year. I know what it feels like now."

Wiggins, who led the Cardinal with 17.3 points and 2.5 steals per game, said she never expected to make such an impact as a freshman. Because she did and because she has collected so much hardware this season, she knows that expectations going into her sophomore year will be high.

"I'm not going to be a freshman anymore. But I think I'm definitely up for it," the La Jolla, Calif., resident said. "I think I'll have more responsibility, but I'm ready for it. I won't know what to expect, but I'm really excited about next year."

One of her coaches is, too. Amy Tucker, Stanford's associate head coach, accompanied Wiggins to the Kodak presentation and said that Wiggins will definitely have to step up next season, particularly since Stanford is losing five seniors.

"She's going to have to get better, and it's possible," Tucker said. "She's a great worker. Obviously there's going to be a lot more pressure on her next year as an All-American, and she's up to the challenge. She'll put the team on her back."

ESPN's Lisa Leslie has been where Wiggins is and concurred with Tucker.

"I was the national Player of the Year as a freshman, and I averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds," Leslie said. "I didn't make Kodak All-American until my senior year because the expectations are so high. Sometimes that can be a negative for you, but hopefully she'll continue to improve and her numbers will stay high. But at the same time, some of the seniors that surround her will be gone and more pressure will be on her so her numbers may go down.

"I love [Wiggins'] game, though, and think that she'll continue to play within herself. She's a humble spirit. She really energizes her team with her defense and I love that. She's very unselfish and just has the heart of a lion. She will not be denied."

In addition to being just the ninth freshman named to the Kodak All-America squad, Wiggins might also gain entry into another sorority if she continues to play at such a high level. She could become just the sixth four-time All-American, joining Catchings, Holdsclaw, Miller, Woodard and Ann Meyers.

Wiggins, however, can't even begin to dream about that yet.

"Oh my gosh, are you kidding? I'm just in utter shock to be here today," she said. "It's so exciting. I respect these girls so much. I've been watching them since I was a freshman in high school. So, to now be up here with them means so much. It's unbelievable."

Miki Turner is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. E-mail her at dmiki@aol.com.