Candace Parker has a prolific list of accomplishments already compiled on her resume, and she looks to add a second Olympic gold medal to that list when the Summer Olympics get underway in London next month. Parker was a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team that claimed the gold medal in Beijing.
Parker was born in St. Louis, Missouri and attended high school at Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Illinois. She played college basketball at the University of Tennessee and began playing for the Lady Volunteers in the 2005-06 season following a medical redshirt in her freshman year. Parker became the first woman to dunk twice in one game during that season, which saw her named the Southeastern Conference’s Rookie of the Year.
Parker became the fastest player in Lady Volunteer history to score 1,000 points, accomplishing the feat in 56 games. She was the SEC Player of the Year and helped Tennessee win the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. She was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament for her efforts. Parker and the Volunteers would repeat as champions in 2008, with Parker becoming the fourth woman in history to win the Most Outstanding Player award in back to back seasons. After winning her second NCAA championship, Parker opted to begin a new chapter and declared herself eligible for the WNBA draft.
The Los Angeles Sparks made Parker the first overall selection in the 2008 WNBA Draft. In her first game, she set a WNBA record for points by a player making her debut when she scored 34. She would go on to be named the WNBA Rookie of the Year and the league’s Most Valuable Player, making her the first woman to win both awards in the same season. She averaged 9.4 points per game in the 2008 Olympics, which took place during her rookie season; the WNBA put the league’s schedule on a break during that time.
Parker has missed a fair amount of time since her breakthrough rookie campaign. She missed time during the 2009 season after giving birth to her first child, daughter Lailaa but rallied to claim second team All-WNBA honors. Her husband is former Duke basketball star Shelden Williams, who now plays in the NBA for the Brooklyn Nets. Her 2010 campaign was cut short after a shoulder injury; she appeared in 10 of 34 regular season contests as the Sparks slumped to 13-21 and missed the playoffs.
Parker then missed 17 games in the 2011 season after sustaining a knee injury; the Sparks missed the postseason for the second consecutive year. She has appeared in 14 of the Sparks 15 games so far in the 2012 season, she is seventh in the league in scoring at 18.2 points per game and third in rebounds with an average of 9.3 per contest.
The U.S. women’s team is the odds-on favorite to claim their fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal. They get underway in the qualifying round on July 28 at 4:45 pm GMT against an opponent to be determined. Of the U.S.’ five opponents, two are known at the moment in Angola and China; the other three will be determined by the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which started June 25 and concludes July 1 in Ankara, Turkey. Should the U.S. advance through the preliminary round, the quarterfinals will take place August 7, the semifinals August 9 and the gold medal game will be contested on August 11.
Will you be watching the U.S. women’s basketball team at the Olympics?