Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer doesn’t hesitate to give much of the credit to her players as she is on the verge of becoming the Division I leader in women’s college basketball victories. The program has won two NCAA titles, been to 13 Women’s Final Fours and won 23 Pac-12 regular-season and 13 league tournament titles. And some of the best players in women’s college basketball history have competed for the Cardinal.
From Nerd Nation to national champions, here are the top 10 Stanford players of the VanDerveer era, which began in 1985.
1. Candice Wiggins: 2004-08, guard
A four-time WBCA All-American, she has the highest career scoring average (19.2 PPG) in program history, and leads in 3-pointers (295), free throws (556) and steals (281). She led Stanford to the Elite Eight as a freshman and sophomore. As a senior, she had 41 points against No. 1 seed Maryland in the regional final to send Stanford to its first Final Four in 11 years. Wiggins also had 44 points in the second round of that 2008 NCAA tournament, 25 points and 13 rebounds in beating UConn in the national semifinals, and she won the Wade Trophy. The magic ended with a loss to Tennessee in the NCAA final, but Wiggins had returned Stanford to the national spotlight.
2. Chiney Ogwumike: 2010-14, forward
It’s hard to separate the Ogwumike sisters; it feels like they should be tied. But at Stanford, the statistical edge goes to younger sister Chiney, who is the Cardinal’s all-time leader in points (2,737) and rebounds (1,567) and is third in blocked shots (202). A three-time All-American, she helped Stanford make three Final Four appearances. Her 24 rebounds against Oregon in 2014 is the program’s single-game record. In 2014, she won the Wooden Award and was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft.
Azzi was a dynamic force on the great 1989-90 team who led Stanford to its first Final Four, first NCAA title and put the Cardinal on the map in women’s basketball. Winner of the Wade Trophy and Naismith Award in 1990, the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, native lived out the dream of winning the national championship in nearby Knoxville and was the Final Four’s most outstanding player. She is the program leader in 3-point shooting percentage (minimum of 150 made) at .452, is second in assists (751) and third in steals (271). She is also 12th in total points (1,634). Her 16 assists against BYU as a freshman remains Stanford’s single-game record.
4. Nicole Powell: 2000-04, guard/forward
Wiggins got Stanford back to the Final Four after a drought, but Powell was the player most responsible for keeping the Cardinal at an elite level when the program went through what was — by Stanford’s lofty standards — a bit of a down period, with two NCAA second-round losses. By Powell’s senior year, Stanford was back in the Elite Eight. A three-time All-American, Powell is the most versatile player in program history: fourth in scoring average (17.3 PPG), second in rebounding average (9.6 RPG) and fifth in total assists (577). She also has six of the eight triple-doubles in Stanford history.
5. Nneka Ogwumike: 2008-12, forward
If we were including professional careers in this ranking, Nneka likely would vault to No. 1, with her 2016 WNBA MVP and league title. The eldest Ogwumike brought sensational athleticism and a perpetually sunny attitude to Stanford, which she still has in the WNBA. A three-time All-American, she helped Stanford make four consecutive Final Four appearances. She is fifth in both scoring average (17.2 PPG) and rebounding average (8.5 RPG), and third in total points (2,491). She was the WNBA’s No. 1 draft pick in 2012.
6. Val Whiting: 1989-93, center
Known for her powerful inside presence, she was on both Stanford national championship teams, and went to three Final Fours. Whiting is sixth in both career points (2,077) and rebounds (1,134), and fourth in blocked shots. Incidentally, before Elena Delle Donne was a superstar at Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Delaware, Whiting was a standout there.
7. Kate Starbird: 1993-97, guard/forward
A 6-foot-2 player with guard skills, Starbird had a wry sense of humor and a knack for scoring. She is one of two Stanford players (the other is Wiggins) to score 40 or more points in a game twice in her career. Starbird finished fourth all-time in points at Stanford (2,215), fifth in steals (252) and 10th in assists (437). She helped Stanford make three Final Four appearances on teams loaded with talent (including Kristin Folkl, who misses this list because she played just two full seasons and part of another due to her commitment to volleyball) and personality (including the irrepressibly hilarious Vanessa Nygaard).
8. Jayne Appel: 2006-10, center
The program leader in blocked shots (273), she is third in rebounds (1,263) and fifth in points (2,125). Appel helped Stanford reach the Final Four three times and has the program’s highest single-game point total, scoring 46 in an Elite Eight victory over Iowa State in 2009.
9. Kayla Pedersen: 2007-11, forward
She helped the Cardinal make four consecutive Final Four appearances and played the most minutes (4,762) of any player in Stanford history. Pedersen is second in rebounds (1,266), even though her career overlapped with three other great rebounders in the Ogwumike sisters and Appel. Pedersen is also ninth in points (1,941), and she and fellow 2011 grad Jeanette Pohlen are tied for most games for Stanford (150).
10. Sonja Henning: 1987-91, guard
Stanford’s career leader in assists (757), she formed an incredible backcourt with Azzi (751 assists) for three seasons. Henning is also second in career steals (280) and scored 1,445 points. She led Stanford with 21 points plus had nine rebounds in the Cardinal’s 88-81 NCAA final victory over Auburn in 1990.
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