|2020 vision: Seniors, left, Anna Wilson, Nadia Fingall, Mikaela Brewer, DiJonai Carrington. (Stanford Athletics)|
When it comes to talking about the 2019-20 Stanford women’s basketball team’s prospects and players, associate head coach Kate Paye’s go-to word is “awesome.”
She then tempers her enthusiasm with “we have a lot of work to do.”
The team arrived the weekend of Sept. 14-15, a week before classes started, and had its first fall practice.
The players also took part in team-building exercises led by two former Marines from The Program, a Connecticut-based company that tries to help college teams build teamwork and develop leadership through shared adversity, according to its website.
The two-day program at Stanford took place on athletic fields and in the pool, Kate said in a recent phone interview.
Before this, the players were on campus for summer school, some practices and conditioning. Some also got international playing experience.
Freshman forward Fran Belibi was on the gold-winning USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team that played in Bangkok, Thailand.
|Kiana (left) and Alyssa in Lima. (Pan Am Games)|
Two juniors -- guard Kiana Williams and forward Alyssa Jerome -- competed in the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Kiana earned a silver medal with Team USA, while Alyssa played for her home country, Canada.
This fall the team was allowed to start practice 42 days before the first game and to practice a total of 30 days. Stanford is practicing up to four hours a day, including about three hours on the court and one hour for conditioning, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
“Practice is going very well,” Kate said. “It’s very competitive. … Everybody’s trying to add more to their game.”
Two seniors – guard DiJonai Carrington and forward Nadia Fingall – are still recovering from surgery, but both are progressing and practicing, Kate said.
Competitive play will begin with an exhibition game at 7 p.m. Oct. 29 against Beijing Normal University. This school is known for teacher education, education science and basic learning in the arts and sciences, according to its website.
The game came about through Taiwanese-Canadian businessman Joseph Tsai, whose wife, Clara, attended Stanford and was acquainted with head coach Tara VanDerveer. Tsai is co-founder and executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group.
His interest in basketball extends to his ownership of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and the WNBA’s New York Liberty.
US National Team to visit
Next on the exhibition schedule in Maples is the 4 p.m. Nov. 2 game against the US National Team, which is on tour as it tunes up for next year’s Olympics.
|Nneka (left) drives against Layshia in a WNBA game. (LA Sparks)|
“It’s a great opportunity to play against the best players in the world,” Kate said. They include Stanford favorite Nneka Ogwumike, ’12, now with the LA Sparks, as well as Cal grad Layshia Clarendon, now with the Connecticut Sun. Kate is hoping for a full house for that one.
The games begin to count at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 when the Cardinal host Eastern Washington.
Team to play in Chase Center
Next the team takes a short bus ride north to San Francisco to play the University of San Francisco at the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center at 3 p.m. Nov. 9.
This will be the first women’s game at the new arena. “We’re excited to test it out,” Kate said.
They’re also excited about the rest of the season. The 11 returning players have all improved, Kate said.
She gave special mention to senior guard Anna Wilson, who’s having “an awesome pre-season. She’s everywhere.” She’s also more comfortable playing the point, thus taking some of the load off Kiana.
Freshmen impress Kate
As for the highly-touted freshmen, they’re “better than advertised,” Kate said. While adjusting to the pace of college play, they’re “producing on the court,” she said.
She said that forward Ashten Prechtel, at 6’5”, is the team’s leading rebounder and scorer, and guard Hannah Jump “is shooting the lights out.”
Fran (who has been touted for dunking) has great post moves. Guard Haley Jones “is versatile and like Magic Johnson leading the break,” she said.
Once the season gets under way, lineups will be “a real puzzle.” What the coaches are hoping for is a faster pace with more aggressive defense. With so much talent available, it “just makes us greedier,” Kate concluded.