TAMPA, Fla. — Candace Parker led Tennessee back to the Final Four and helped the U.S. national team qualify for the Olympics. On Saturday, she put another exclamation point on her All-American season: The Associated Press college basketball player of the year.
“I don’t know of another player—I haven’t coached one—who was 6-foot-5 with the skill set she has,” Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said.
Parker received 40 votes from the 50-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. Maya Moore was second with five votes. Sylvia Fowles and Candice Wiggins had two each and Crystal Langhorne one.
Parker, a 6-foot-5 junior, averaged 21.6 points and 8.3 rebounds this season. On Tuesday night, she scored eight of her 26 points in the second half after twice dislocating her left shoulder to help Tennessee rally past Texas A&M and into the Final Four. She scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the regional semifinals to send the Lady Vols over Notre Dame.
I feel like just knowing when to take over and not waiting,” Parker said. “I try to play hard on both ends of the court and provide what my team needs.”
Parker was a unanimous All-American, earning first-team honors for the second straight year. She not only helped Tennessee win the national championship last season, but also sparked the U.S. team during Olympic qualifying by averaging a team-high 13.8 points in the FIBA Americas tournament in Chile. Parker will be a major part of the U.S. team at the Beijing Olympics.
Parker will graduate this May and not return for her last year of eligibility. She most likely will be the first pick by the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA draft Wednesday.