Candace Parker helped Tennessee win a national title and the
United States qualify for the Olympics. Now there's one more honor
to add to this run the last few months: a unanimous choice for the
preseason All-America team by The Associated Press.
The Tennessee junior was joined on the squad Tuesday by
Oklahoma's Courtney Paris, Stanford's Candice Wiggins, LSU's Sylvia
Fowles and Maryland's Crystal Langhorne.
Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt of Tennessee already knew Parker
could score. It's the other aspects of Parker's game that impress
"If there is one thing to separate her out, it's her commitment
to defending," Summitt said. "Her intensity on the defensive end
is so much better. She's also much better attacking the basket."
Parker sparked the Lady Vols to their seventh national title
last April and the national team to a spot in the Beijing Games.
She was the top scorer on the U.S. team that won the FIBA Americas
tournament in September.
Parker was on every ballot of the 50-member national media
panel. The only other previous unanimous selections were Chamique
Holdsclaw, Diana Taurasi, Alana Beard and Seimone Augustus.
"That's a special group," Parker said. "I wouldn't be who I
was without my teammates or coaches support."
Paris came close to a unanimous selection, getting 48 votes.
Wiggins drew 43, Fowles 41 and Langhorne 28. Paris and Parker were
All-Americans last season. Langhorne, Wiggins and Fowles earned
Summitt saw Parker, Paris, Wiggins and Fowles play with the U.S.
national team this fall.
"I thought just watching them play, they are impact players on
their respective teams," she said. "They did some amazing things
for the U.S. team."
The four have known each other for years, playing on various
U.S. teams. Their friendship was evident in a discussion with the
AP at the national team training camp.
"We've been friends for a long time," Wiggins said. "I've
known Courtney since freshman year in high school and I've known
Candace forever and Syl, too."
When they aren't facing each other on the court, the four always
check out how the others are doing.
"I'm a fan of our game," Paris said. "It's hard not to follow
everyone's career. The media does such a good job. It's easy to pop
on the TV, or open up the newspaper and follow them."
The 6-foot-4 Paris was third in the nation in scoring at 23.5
points and second in rebounding with 15.9 last season en route to
becoming AP Player of the Year. Oklahoma coach Sheri Coale has seen
a change in the junior's ability to move without the ball.
"Her greatest strides have been what she does when she doesn't
have the ball in her hands," Coale said. "That's always the last
part of a game to develop. She's already thinking. She's wiser and
is always looking to expand her game."
Maryland coach Brenda Frese marvels at Langhorne's ability to
"She's the best finisher in the game and her explosive
quickness makes her very hard to guard. ... There are very few
players like Crystal," Frese said.
Langhorne became the third player in NCAA history to lead the
nation in field goal percentage two straight seasons -- no player
has done it three years in a row. She shot .707 last season, the
sixth best mark ever.
"With all the great players in the country, I'm honored to have
been chosen among such elite players," she said. "I have to
credit my teammates and coaches because they've been a big part of
my career and my development."
Fowles has carried LSU to three straight Final Four appearances,
and with new coach Van Chancellor hopes to get the elusive
"That's always the goal," Fowles said. "Just putting the work
in 24-7 definitely plays its part. With coach we have a new system
coming on. Whatever he wants to do to change the system will do to
win a championship."
Wiggins led Stanford to the another Pac-10 title, then came a
second-round loss in the NCAA tournament to Florida State. The 5-11
guard averaged 16.9 points last season. She had a busy summer
winning gold medals for the U.S. on the under-21 and Pan American
Paris, Parker, Langhorne and Wiggins were all preseason
All-Americans last year.
Said Paris: "That kind of stuff never gets old. ... It's really