- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
- 0 Shares
Fresh starts. Clean slates. Call it what you want, but Candice Wiggins and Nicole Powell landed in Tulsa this past weekend with more than their shared history at Stanford in common.
Acquired by the Shock in one of the league's biggest offseason trade deals in February, both Wiggins and Powell get a reset in Oklahoma under Gary Kloppenburg, who needs veteran leadership and championship experience -- and a little offense wouldn't hurt.
"They are both high-intensity players, and they are both great pros," Kloppenburg said. "I think their style of play fits with what we want to do, and they are going to add a lot to our growing franchise."
Powell, 30, has done the change thing during her 10-year WNBA career. Tulsa will be her fourth WNBA team. She spent her rookie season in Charlotte in 2004 before being traded to Sacramento before the 2005 season, where she won a championship in 2005 and played five seasons.
When the Monarchs folded in 2009, New York picked her up in the dispersal draft.
"Maybe it's just me getting older and a little bit wiser, but I'm feeling more like change is not such a big deal for me," Powell said. "I really spent a lot of time in Sacramento, I was really comfortable there. Going to a different place after that felt like a huge change. But now I don't really feel that way.
"I know I feel more excited by the opportunity rather than the apprehension of being in a new place and trying to prove myself."
But Powell is undoubtedly looking for some career rejuvenation. Last season in New York, Powell posted the lowest scoring average (7.0 PPG) and hit the fewest 3-pointers (47) since her rookie season. After being a regular starter throughout her career, Powell came off the bench last season in more than a dozen games. Her overseas season in Spain came to a premature end in January, as she mutually agreed with her team to end her contract.
Powell said she felt her role was "limited" in New York under coach John Whisenant, whom she also played for in Sacramento. She was a 3-point shooter whose job was to "sit in the corner, take a shot and knock it down."
She would like to get back to the more versatile parts of her game: playing in the paint, pulling down rebounds, driving to the rim. Kloppenburg said Powell is capable of a lot more.
"Coach Klop is asking me to be more active, more aggressive on the offensive end, and I'm looking forward to it," Powell said.
Wiggins comes with her own anticipation. Not only is she likely to get a shot at starting for the first time in her WNBA career after five years as an off-the-bench spark plug for the Minnesota Lynx, but she also will share a backcourt with close friend Skylar Diggins.
Wiggins and Diggins struck up a friendship during Diggins' college recruitment by Stanford, but they have never played on the same team.
"I feel like we can use our energy against other teams," Wiggins said. "That whole idea of teamwork and sisterhood, it's something I live for."
Wiggins, who has a championship ring with the Lynx from 2011, attended last month's WNBA rookie orientation before the draft to speak on a panel. Wiggins said she felt like she was a rookie again herself; she missed her own orientation back in 2008 when she went to Beijing with USA Basketball.
"For me, this is a second chance," Wiggins said. "Tara [VanDerveer, Stanford's coach] always told me that you don't have a second chance to make a first impression, but I feel like I can make a first impression again. This is a new opportunity."
Wiggins' scoring average has dropped off the past two seasons in Minnesota, her minutes declining after her return from an Achilles tendon injury that cost her most of 2010 and with the arrival of Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore. She made one start the past two seasons in Minnesota. Last season, she averaged 6.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
"I bring nothing but good things with me from Minnesota," Wiggins said. "Most of all, knowing what it takes to win a championship. Every practice I went against the best team in the league. It was a great experience."
In her five years as a pro, this is the best Wiggins has felt.
"I had a good month of training in San Diego, and I can't even contain my excitement right now," she said.
Part of that might also have to do with Tulsa's conversion to Stanford South. Powell played for the Cardinal from 2000 to 2004. Wiggins arrived right after Powell left, leading Stanford to the national title game and winning the Wade Trophy in 2008. The pair join third-year pro Kayla Pedersen -- who played in four Final Fours -- on the Shock roster.
"I know the kind of program they all came from," Kloppenburg said. "I know they are going to play hard, work hard, they are fundamentally sound and they have professional attitudes. They get it. And we need that."
Wiggins said Powell was a role model for her as a young player.
"When I was a freshman in high school, Nicole was a huge part of the reason I wanted to go to Stanford," Wiggins said. "I never thought I'd be playing with her. And I get to play with Kayla again, the most reliable post I ever played with."
Powell hasn't played with another Stanford teammate since she and Olympia Scott played together in Sacramento.
"I feel like we have a shared understanding of the game," Powell said. "I hope we have some Stanford fans come down to L.A. to root for us when we play there."
17dBonnie D. Ford