Nov 26, 2004 (AP)
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
STANFORD, Calif. - Candice Wiggins is a walking advertisement for the anti-drug effort. A star freshman for Stanford's basketball team, she showed up for a recent practice wearing a T-shirt reading: "No doubt about it. My health. My sport. My victory. I compete clean."
The message hits close to home for Wiggins and her older brother Alan, a sophomore center for the University of San Francisco. After years of abusing drugs, their father, major league baseball player Alan Wiggins, died of complications from AIDS at 32, about a month before Candice turned 4.
Their dad was a spark plug for the 1984 San Diego Padres, who reached the World Series. He stole a club-record 70 bases that year, but his drug addiction defines his career.
His kids compete in his honor; they play to improve his tarnished image.
"I definitely think about kind of continuing his short career," Candice said. "I think there's a lot of negative things about him, but my mom just tells me the kind of person he was. He was a really great person for his family and his kids. I'm sure he had his bad qualities, but I know the stuff that was good."
Candice, a quick 5-foot-11 guard, led the Cardinal (4-0) in scoring in their first three games and might just be the most athletic player Tara VanDerveer has coached in 19 seasons at Stanford. Candice isn't the only member of the Cardinal with ties to professional sports, John Elway's daughter, Jessica, is another freshman on the team, which is ranked No. 7.
Only months before Alan Wiggins' death, and a year after a fire destroyed the family home, Candice was hit by a car backing out of a driveway. The accident left her with a scar from her left eye to her cheekbone.
"It seemed like a lot of tragedies were hitting us," said the players' mother, Angela. "The fire happened, she got hit, and then Alan died. I did all right. There are a lot of people in worse situations than I'm in. Trials come to everybody, and it definitely makes you stronger."
She raised three children, the oldest, Cassandra, recently graduated from New York University, as a single mother, telling them about their father's positive attributes but also about his problems.
Alan Wiggins went through drug rehab three times before being suspended indefinitely from baseball in 1987. He batted .259 for his career, with 242 stolen bases, and was the leadoff hitter and second baseman for the 1984 Padres.
Candice's accident didn't slow her down. By fifth grade, she was too good for girls' teams and began playing with boys. In seventh grade, she was on the same AAU team as her brother, she started, he didn't.
"I didn't even care," Alan Jr. recalled. "I thought it was cool I was going to play with my sister. I cared more about her doing well than me. I knew she was going to be a great player. She was so good. She was dominating the girls, so she thought, 'Why don't I try out for the boys' team?'"
The siblings speak openly about their father.
Candice's memories of him are only "glimpses, little flashes," such as of him picking her up as a toddler.
Her brother remembers more, such as his dad's last game with the Baltimore Orioles.
When Candice was in high school, her mother encouraged her to set an example with her life.
"She was letting me know the kind of influence you could have, the kind of person I could be," Candice said. "It's more than something small. You can really change something, change everything and really help my father's image. I didn't really realize the influence you have playing sports."
Candice became nearly as known for compassion as for athletic talents at La Jolla Country Day School outside San Diego. She led her team to two state titles and two second-place finishes, averaged 30.8 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.3 steals as a senior, and also was a volleyball and track star.
As a high school freshman, she gave her sportsmanship medal from the state tournament to the mother of a friend and classmate, the school mascot, who died in a car accident traveling home from the championship game.
If there ever were pressures for the Wiggins kids to try drugs, they never noticed, they were too busy with the demands of sports and school. Alan averaged 19.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and four blocks as a senior at Horizon High School.
"Even if my father had not done drugs, I'd take it seriously," Alan said. "Knowing my father died of it, I really take it seriously."
Alan never took to baseball. When his uncle signed him up for Little League, Alan quit after one practice, calling the sport "stupid and boring."
He knows his father would be proud to see how his children turned out.
"I'm definitely playing for my father. My success and my sister's success is going to lift my father's name up," he said. "A lot of people remember my father because of the drugs and a lot of the bad things he did. I want people to remember my father for the great baseball player he was and the great father he was."