Tennessee star Candace Parker won the 2008 Naismith Trophy as women’s college basketball player of the year on Monday.
Tonight she goes for an even bigger prize.
Parker and the Lady Vols will battle Stanford in Tampa, Fla., for the national championship. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Parker, who averaged 20.6 points and 8.8 rebounds for the Lady Vols this season, edged LSU’s Sylvia Fowles, Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris, and Stanford’s Candice Wiggins for the award.
Parker became the fifth women’s player in history to win the Naismith award in high school and college — the Illinois native won the high school award at Naperville Central in 2003 and 2004.
The All-American forward battled through a shoulder injury to score 13 points and grab 15 rebounds in Tennessee’s one-point win over LSU on Sunday. The Lady Vols face Wiggins’ Stanford team in Tuesday’s championship game.
Parker said the Lady Vols will have their hands full with Wiggins, who has been dominating in the NCAA so far. She had 25 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in Stanford’s upset of UConn.
“She’s progressed and gotten better every year,” Parker said of Wiggins. “ I think she’s a great leader for her team and she really inspires by her play. She inspires her teammates. Obviously, we’re great friends. We’ve played on a lot of the same USA teams and things like that. She’s a great person as well.”
But UT coach Pat Summitt is quick to remind everyone that Parker is no slouch, either.
"Candace Parker, obviously very similar in what she brings as far as the points, the contributions, her passing skills," Summitt said. " Much like Candice Wiggins, Candace Parker is very unselfish.
“Even last night when she came down the floor and hit Nicky Anosike, when I anticipated Candace would take that shot, she saw the opening and made the great pass,” Summitt said. “ But with Candace, I think that Candace Parker is just a great all around offensive player because she has been in the gym and expanding what she can do with the basketball, meaning going left, going right.”
Parker became the first Lady Vols’ player to win the Naismith award since 2000, when Tamika Catchings won it.