WNBA's Candice Wiggins cheers her first-place Lynx

Lynx player Candice Wiggins
Minnesota Lynx player Candice Wiggins (11) guards the Connecticut Sun's Renee Montgomery (21) during an WNBA basketball game, Saturday, July 9, 2011, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 90-67.
PAUL BATTAGLIA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Lynx guard Candice Wiggins arrived for her interview with MPR's Morning Edition with a little hoarseness left in her voice — she'd cheered a little too loudly for the four Lynx players in the WNBA All-Star game on Saturday in San Antonio, Texas.

"It was so great to be there, and it was so different — the feeling surrounding the Lynx this year," she said.

The Lynx are in first place in their conference about halfway through the season. They haven't finished better than fifth place in the last six seasons.

"I think a lot of things factor into that. First of all, everyone's healthy for the first time," said Wiggins, who injured her Achilles tendon last season.

Wiggins said her one goal for this year was to have a full, healthy season.

But Wiggins said she tried to make the most of being sidelined last year, finishing her last quarter at Stanford University, where she met former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Rice told Wiggins of how her first idea for a career as a concert pianist didn't work out.

"Her point was that you never really know what your path is going to be and just you want to make sure you're setting yourself up, not necessarily knowing what you're going to do, but preparing yourself," Wiggins said.

"I still want to play basketball for a really long time," she added. "You can still do all the things you want to in life but it's just like it's nice to keep going and see how far you can go with your education. I want to go as far as I can."

For now, Wiggins is focused on helping the Lynx reach the playoffs. She acknowledged the Lynx don't get a lot of attention from sports reporters.

"I don't mind earning the respect of these news reporters, and it's a hard beat to cover," she said. "They struggle with it in this male-dominated society and sports world. We just have to find our angle and do what we can do best and hope that people catch on and see how great it is."

Wiggins is also one of five Lynx players being considered for next year's U.S. Olympic team, a process she described as "grueling."

"It's crazy. You have the best at your position. You also have to be the best team member, even if that means you don't make the team," she said. "You always have to be for something bigger than yourself."

(MPR host Cathy Wurzer contributed to this report.)

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.