By R. Alan Richardson sports editor
Something great doesn’t just appear, it is created over time and Candi Wyatt was a tremendous part of making Clayton State women’s basketball what it is today. A member of the inaugural team in 1991, she was the team’s first 1,000-point scorer and helped lay the foundation for success over her four years as a Laker. A native of Madison, Georgia, Wyatt was Clayton State’s second-leading scorer in the 1991-92 season with a 10.5 average and was one of just four players to appear in all 24 games, starting 23. She also averaged 2.3 assists and nearly a steal a game. After a respectable eight win first season, the Lakers took a huge step forward, led by Wyatt. They would finish with a 14-13 overall record and qualify for the NAIA District 25 Playoffs as Wyatt played in all 26 games, starting all but one, and averaging 9.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 steals. She would be even more impressive as a junior in 1993-94 when she averaged 11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.0 steals. That season Wyatt would once again play in every game (29) and lead the team in scoring nine times with five of those surpassing 20 points. That included a career-high 23 points at Kennesaw State and career-best 11 boards vs. St. Leo. It would all come together for Wyatt and the Lakers during the 1994-95 season. That year she would start all 31 games and lead the club in scoring at 15.3 per game to go along with 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals in what would be the program’s most successful season.
That year she helped lead a fourth year Clayton State team to a program record 19 wins against only 13 losses, claiming the first ever league championship as they won the Georgia Athletic Conference. In the GAC title game, they knocked off Georgia Southwestern by an 81-70 score to make more history. That victory earned the Lakers the athletic department’s first ever appearance on the national stage with a trip to the NAIA National Tournament. Following the season, Wyatt would earn All-GAC Second-Team honors, becoming just the second student-athlete to do so.
On top of that, the team’s 19 wins would remain a program record until the 2004-05 season when that year’s team made the first of 10 straight NCAA Tournament appearances with a 25-7 record. Wyatt would finish that season with 475 points to surpass the 1,000-point barrier and finish her career with 1,315 points, both marks that still rank third all-time after more than 20 years. She ranks in the Top-10 in three more single season categories, all from that year, with 15.3 points per game (3rd), 174 field goals (4th) and 117 free throws (4th). Her 106 games started are the most all-time for a career, followed by 302 free throws (3rd), 490 field goals (4th), 323 assists (4th), 206 offensive rebounds (6th), 110 games played (T-7th), 12.0 points per game (9th) and 2.9 assists per game (10th). [End of press release] Wyatt is now an assistant basketball coach with her former high school team. She talked about the honor saying, “It was a very special night and exciting to have so many family members, friends, and teammates there to support me. One of the highlights for me was having my former high school basketball coach at Morgan County, Jeannette Looney, there to introduce me. She did a great job and touched me with some of her comments. I was very lucky to have her there.
The committee did a good job of talking about my statistics. When you’re a kid just having fun and loving the aspect of competing playing a game you love, you don’t realize how many firsts, points, steals, rebounds or whatever you were a part of. It was very humbling.” Looney made these remarks in her introduction, “It is a tremendous honor to stand before you tonight and introduce Clayton State University Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee, Candi Wyatt. It is a rarity that a high school coach such as me is offered such a privilege. I truly believe you have chosen a most worthy recipient for this honor. If you had seen Candi play in her early high school years, you would think her the most unlikely of candidates for such an honor as she is receiving tonight. I was first met Candi when she was in the eighth grade. I was the varsity girls’ basketball coach at Morgan County High School and she played on our JV basketball team. She was an average player back then, not very fast, not very tall, and really not very talented. Someone once said, The most important thing is not where you are, but in which direction you are headed. Candi Wyatt was headed in the right direction. Despite any shortcomings, she started at point guard on our varsity team all 4 years of high school and as this average player began to work and improve, her team followed suit. As I said those were her early years. During this time period of high school, most college bound players are trying to get on the right AAU team to improve their skills and be seen by college coaches. Candi was different. She was trying to find the right pick-up game to play in. Once, I found her playing with a group of college guys at the University of Georgia. I knew then, she was serious about basketball. During Candi’s four years of high school, she transformed into a collegiate athlete through hard work, commitment, tenacity, stubbornness, a desire for excellence and probably a lot of coaching along the way from her brothers. I have always considered it a privilege to have been called her coach, but even greater now to be called her friend.” Candi was asked about what it meant to her to get a full scholarship to play basketball. She said, “I really appreciate it more now as an adult that I did at the time. I never had any student loans to pay off like so many of my friends. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to continue playing basketball and get an education. It was an honor to play at Clayton State.” Coach Wyatt finished off her induction with this family story. “I grew up with seven brothers and I was the youngest.
My Mom (Lurene-and Dad Eddie Wyatt) wanted me to be the girly little girl. I took baton twirling, ballet, and was a cheerleader. It drove her crazy that her only daughter loved playing basketball with her big brothers. In the eighth grade I tried out for the B-team at the high school and came home screaming ‘I made it, I made it.’ She looked at my brother Ron and said ‘I thought you said she wasn’t going to make the team?’ Ron said, ‘I know, she was terrible. I guess they just kept her on the team because we all played. My Mom answered, ‘I knew I should have called that coach and told him to cut her.” Her last statement at her Hall of Fame ceremony was directed at her brothers, “With this Hall of Fame election we can quit arguing about it. It’s finally settled now that I’m the best basketball player in the family.” The crowd roared with laughter as she walked off the stage.