Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - July 20, 2012

Stanford grads are finding success in the WNBA

With the Summer Olympic fast approaching, the Women's National Basketball Association is on vacation until many of its top players return from London.

Six former Stanford players, meanwhile, have contributed to their respective teams during, this, the WNBA's 16th season.

The newest Cardinal alumna in the league is 2012 No. 1 overall pick Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who is playing for the Los Angeles Sparks. In 20 games (all starts), Ogwumike is averaging 14.1 points and 7.6 rebounds while averaging 28.9 minutes for the 15-6 Sparks.

Also donning jerseys this season are Nicole Powell '04 (New York Liberty), Candice Wiggins '08 (Minnesota Lynx), Jayne Appel '10 (San Antonio Silver Stars), Kayla Pedersen '11 (Tulsa Shock) and Jeanette Pohlen '11 (Indiana Fever).

All six Cardinal players were also WNBA first-round picks.

Ogwumike is the 25th Stanford player to play in a WNBA regular-season game. As the top overall pick in April's draft, she was also the Cardinal's 10th first-round selection.

Ogwumike, Stanford's first WNBA overall top pick, has been a standout in the WNBA after her third straight All-America season on The Farm. The 2012 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award recipient became just the fourth player in Stanford history to average a double-double over a full season when she scored 22.5 points and grabbed 10.2 rebounds a game this past season.

The Cypress, Texas native set Stanford single-season records with 809 points scored, a 22.5 scoring average, 191 free throws made and 230 attempted. A consensus All-American, Ogwumike was also named Pac-12 Player of the Year for the second time as well as MVP of the Pac-12 Tournament and Fresno Regional while leading the Cardinal to a 35-2 record and its fifth straight Final Four.

Wiggins has played 19 games with the Lynx (no starts) and is averaging 7.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in 20.9 minutes per game. She is still Stanford's all-time leading scorer with 2,629 points and is in her fifth year in the league with Minnesota, the defending WNBA champion. The Lynx is 15-4 and leads the Western Conference.

Coming off of an injury-plagued 2010 that limited her to just eight games, Wiggins played all 34 regular-season games in 2001, scoring 5.9 points a game while shooting 39.5 percent from 3-point range.

In the playoffs Wiggins averaged 4.0 points a game, hitting eight 3-pointers as the Lynx powered through three rounds to win its first WNBA title. Wiggins starred in the title-clinching contest, scoring 10 points with five rebounds and two assists in Minnesota's 73-67 Game 3 victory that finished off the sweep of the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA Finals.

Powell, is the most-tenured Cardinal player in the league while playing in her ninth season. In 18 games, she's averaging 5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 26.9 minutes for the 6-12 Liberty.

Originally drafted third overall by the now-defunct Charlotte Sting, Powell, Stanford's first three-time All-American and one of just four Cardinal members of the 2,000-Point/1,000-Rebound Club, spent a year in Charlotte before moving on to the Sacramento Monarchs from 2005-09. There, she helped lead the Monarchs to the franchise's only WNBA title in 2005. After the Monarchs folded in 2009, Powell was selected first by the New York Liberty in the ensuing dispersal draft.

The 2005 WNBA Most Improved Player and a one-time All-Star (2009), Powell played 268 games in her WNBA career (prior to this season), starting 236. She averaged 10.9 points and 4.3 rebounds a game and is a 38.3-percent 3-point shooter for her career heading into the 2012 campaign.

Two-time WBCA All-American and 2009 Pac-10 Player of the Year Jayne Appel is in her third season with the San Antonio Silver Stars, the team that drafted her fifth overall in 2010. She has started 15 of 18 games during a 13-5 start for the Silver Stars, good for second place in the Western Conference. She's averaging 3.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in 19.3 minutes per game.

The 2010 WNBA All-Star appeared in 59 games over her first two seasons, averaging 3.3 points and 3.6 rebounds a game while shooting an even 50 percent from the field. Appel has helped lead the Silver Stars to the playoffs in each of her seasons in the Lone Star State. San Antonio, however, has bowed out of the playoffs in the first round each season, being swept by Phoenix in 2010 and falling in three games to eventual champ Minnesota last year.

Currently in their second seasons together in the league, Pedersen and Pohlen hold the distinction of being Stanford's first multiple No. 1 picks in a single season. Pedersen, taken seventh overall by the Tulsa Shock, and Pohlen, selected ninth by the Indiana Fever in 2011, experienced both ends of the spectrum in their first WNBA seasons.

Pohlen has no starts in 17 games and is averaging 5.8 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 17.6 points for the Fever, 10-7 and in second place in the Eastern Conference.

Pohlen and the Fever captured the top seed in the Eastern Conference last season with a 21-13 record, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals before being eliminated in three games by Atlanta.

The 2011 Pac-10 Player of the Year and Associated Press All-America First Team selection played all 34 regular-season games, starting two, averaging 4.1 points a game and hitting 46.8 percent of her 3-point attempts.

Pedersen is averaging 5.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 25.5 minutes for the struggling Tulsa Shock (3-15 thus far). Stanford's all-time leader in rebounds (1,266), games played (150) and started (150) and minutes played (4,762), as well as a two-time Associated Press All-America honorable mention (2010-11) and four-time All-Pac-10 selection, experienced a tough rookie year in the league in 2011. Her Tulsa Shock team went a league-worst 3-31, as head coach Nolan Richardson was fired during the season and replaced by interim head coach Teresa Edwards.

Pedersen, however, displayed the trademark durability and leadership that Stanford fans know all too well, weathering the changes in Tulsa to average 6.8 points and 3.6 rebounds a game while shooting 40.2 percent from the field. She started 20 of the 33 games in which she appeared and was fifth on the team with 23.8 minutes a game.

All six former Stanford players will be back in action when the WNBA resumes play on August 18.

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