CLEVELAND - Candace Parker is ready for her close up. The Tennessee redshirt sophomore forward came to play for the Lady Vols for one reason: she wanted to win championships.
On Tuesday night, she did it.
The consensus player of the year scored 17 points to lead the Lady Vols to a 59-46 win over Rutgers for the NCAA women’s basketball title.
And now, Parker would like her banner.
“This means everything to me,” Parker said after being voted the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four. “I didn’t care about the Most Outstanding Player, I am just ready for the ring, I am ready for the (national championship) banner and I am ready for the parade.”
After the win, Parker, who is graduating early and could be eligible for the WNBA draft if she chose to be, confirmed she will return next year for a sequel run at another title. With all but guard Sidney Spencer coming back, Parker and the Lady Vols have to be considered the favorites for 2008.
Sitting right up there at the front of that parade with Parker should be Tennessee center Nicky Anosike and point guard Shannon Bobbitt. The Lady Vols overwhelmed Rutgers on the boards, with Anosike grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds. Bobbitt, the first junior college player to start for Summitt in her 33 years at the Lady Vols helm, hit three uncontested three-pointers in the second half that proved to be the knock-out punch to the scrappy Scarlet Knights.
“When I get visions of this game, I see Shannon Bobbitt knocking those threes down and us really not coming out and playing her,” Rutgers’ coach C. Vivian Stringer said of the 5-foot-2 Tennessee guard’s three-pointers. “Which is unusual when you are playing for a national championship you play anything and everything. If you see a gnat moving on the floor you try to stomp it out.”
The Lady Vols were too strong and too quick for the Scarlet Knights to stomp on. Rutgers’ run to the title game had been an unlikely Cinderella story. Starting the season 2-4, the Rutgers team that does not have a senior on its roster turned it around with a tough and scrappy defense. The Scarlet Knights had knocked out the overall No. 1 seed Duke in North Carolina and was dominating in its semifinal win over LSU.
But, this was Parker’s story and she was not going to share the spotlight.
Since arriving in Cleveland, she had talked about banners and titles nonstop. It had been nine years since a Lady Vols team had cut down the nets on a national title — almost half of her lifetime.
“That's something that we came to Tennessee to do, to win a national championship,” Parker said. “I remembered in the locker room yesterday that earlier in the season some members of the '87 team came back. The first championship team. And they were sharing their stories and different things like that.
“We were just like, in 20 years we want to be able to come back and have our banner in the rafters and be able to celebrate and tell famous Pat stories and things like that. Roll her in a wheelchair.”
“This is so sweet,” Parker said of enjoying the win, “how many people get to ever feel this way?”
Summitt smiled at her star player. It’s the seventh time Summitt had enjoyed the feeling, but this title was different.
“This is not about winning No. 7. This is about this team winning their first,” Summitt said. “But for me tonight it was all about helping this team. And that's why in our game against North Carolina I said we're not leaving here without a national championship because I really believe this team deserved to be national champions.”
CBT: Kansas commit Andrew Wiggins impressed in his first workout with the Jayhawks.
Former Rutgers staffer Erik Murdock is still seeking compensation for his termination and says he confronted his co-workers about Mike Rice's behavior.
Latest from CollegeBasketballTalk
Auburn announces addition of JUCO guard Malcolm Canada8 hr 19 min ago
2015 forward Tim Delaney verbally commits to Villanova10 hr 58 min ago
6-11 big man Billy Magarity commits to Boston College12 hr 25 min ago
College basketball videos
Rutgers AD has no recollection of abuse
DPS: Craig Wolff of the Newark Star Ledger discusses the details of the allegations against Rutgers AD Julie Hermann with the DPS crew. She says she does not remember the abuse, even an incident in which she was caught on videotape.
Three cheers for college hoops
Take a look at cheerleaders in action from around the country.