January 31, 2009

So many applicants, so few slots

Some 30,348 high school seniors have applied for admission to Stanford next fall. That’s a 20 percent increase over last year and the largest applicant pool ever. However, fewer than 8 percent of them will be allowed to fill the 1,670 slots available for the class of 2013. And unlike the situation at many other universities, no slots are ever reserved for athletes. Therefore, the coaches of Stanford’s 35 varsity sports can only hope that the athletes they’d been recruiting and coveting successfully get through the admissions office’s rigorous review process.

That’s the bottom line, according to Kiyoe Hashimoto, assistant dean of admissions, who spoke to the Fast Break Club after the women’s basketball team’s victory over visiting USC. Kiyoe serves as the admissions office’s liaison to varsity sports. She and her 27 colleagues also divide applications geographically, so in addition to athletes, she reviews applicants from other countries and Massachusetts.

Kiyoe works closely with the coaches and emphasizes two major themes – communication and trust. Although some applicants are still awaiting acceptance, others, including most athletes, know their status because she reviews their transcripts fairly early in the process because of NCAA deadlines for letters of intent. In fact, assistant head coach Amy Tucker, who coordinates recruiting for the women’s basketball team, already had some high school juniors’ transcripts for Kiyoe to read.

Kiyoe and her colleagues want to make sure that the athletes can make an informed decision before committing to Stanford. They don’t want to lead them on if they won’t be a good fit for the university. Likewise, they don’t want the coaches to expend time and money recruiting these athletes. That’s where communication comes in.

Trust between her office and the coaches means that “we trust that they’re bringing us the best student athletes out there,” she said. The coaches have to trust that her office will select student athletes who are right for Stanford.

In reviewing applicants, admissions officers look at grades, the kinds of classes such as advanced placement or honors, and scores on standardized tests for the first cut. The common application used by Stanford and hundreds of other schools also requires the applicant to write an essay and receive recommendations from two academic teachers. On top of that, Stanford’s supplemental application asks questions about books read, favorite music and historical events that the student would have liked to witness. Then it calls for three more essays.

“It’s a holistic process. It’s not just about the numbers. We’re looking for intangible qualities” such as intellectual curiosity and humor, she said. They want to know if the student is a nice person and if he or she is a team player.

Each application is read by three people. The first might be someone who’s familiar with the student’s geographic area. Kiyoe is the second reader. The third reader is the dean of admissions and financial aid.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer noted that when she applied for her job at Stanford, her first meeting was with the dean of admissions. “We work very closely with the admissions office,” she said. “They know what they’re doing.”

She also confirmed Stanford’s unwavering policy that athletes must go through the admissions process just like anyone else. She recalled the time when the office rejected a prized recruit, but when she asked the admissions officer about the rejection, she was told, “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?” End of discussion.

Turning her comments to that night’s 81-53 win over USC, Tara had nothing but praise for freshman forward Sarah Boothe, who had a career-high 16 points to go with six rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block in 19 minutes of playing time. “This was a breakout game for Sarah,” she said, noting that Sarah’s mother was at the game. It was the first time she had been at a game to see Sarah playing in a Stanford uniform. She also planned to use the weekend to go shopping with Sarah and decorate her room, which had been provided with only the necessities when Sarah’s father accompanied her to campus from their home in Gurnee, Ill., last fall.

Tara also complimented Sarah’s teammates, especially guard Jeanette Pohlen, who “did a really nice job for us.” The coach also was pleased that “we rebound, we run,” but there were too many turnovers – 22. “That gives us something to work on in practice,” she said. She attributed part of the reason for Sarah’s progress through the season to junior center Jayne Appel, Sarah’s fellow post player. “Jayne helps Sarah,” she said.

Besides the play of Sarah, Jeanette and Jayne, Tara cited solid contributions by forwards Kayla Pedersen, Jillian Harmon and Nneka Ogwumike, along with guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude. She said she’s hoping at least one more player will step up consistently.

January 13, 2009

Lindy meets the Fast Break Club after win over Washington State

“My dad always says I was born in a gym.” Freshman guard Lindy La Rocque knows that’s not true, but she has loved basketball for all of her 19 years. “I’ve always liked to shoot,” she told the Fast Break Club after the Stanford women’s 102-53 victory over Washington State, the second consecutive game in which they recorded 100+ points.

Lindy’s father and sister, a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma, were at the game, visiting from their Las Vegas hometown. Her mother, a teacher, couldn’t make the trip because of school. She also was taking care of the family dog, Astro, a Yorkshire terrier.

Lindy attended Durango High and played point guard until her senior year, when she shifted to the 2 spot. The coaches have recently been calling on her point-guard experience, playing her in that key spot when the bench players take over.

Now retired, Lindy’s father taught at Durango High and coached the boys basketball team, then helped with the girls team. One fan asked her how she managed to earn a seemingly impossible 4.7 grade point average on a 4-point system. She explained that she got straight A’s plus extra points for honors classes.

Fans and coaches have remarked on her high, arcing three-point shot, but she had never heard it called arcing until she got to Stanford. She just figures she was applying what she learned in physics class: “You need that high arc to get the ball in the basket.”

Lindy committed to Stanford as a junior. “I wanted an academic type of school,” she said. She then related how she learned she had been accepted. She was driving home after working out when head coach Tara VanDerveer called with the news. Lindy didn’t say yes right away. Instead, still driving (her dad doesn’t like her to use her phone when driving), she called and told him the news. He told her to call back and accept the offer, which she did – while driving.

Some other Lindy tidbits: Her nickname is Lulu. She likes to go fishing at Mammoth Lakes with her father and sister. She hasn’t declared a major, but she’s interested in STS – science, technology and society – and is taking an introductory class this term. Her short-term basketball goals are to get stronger so that she can be more than one-dimensional and to continue working on her shot.

Everyone got a big scare during the game when she fell hard and hit her head on the floor during the second half. Nevertheless, she stayed in the game and finished with four points (a three-pointer and a free throw), five assists, one steal and one offensive rebound. She said afterward that she had a headache, but “I’m OK.” “It was getting a little rough out there,” Tara said just after Lindy finished her Q&A.

Washington State “gave us a good game for a while,” Tara said, but the Cardinal soon surged ahead. “People were excited for each other. They really had fun this weekend,” she said.

A game like this one and the Washington game, which Stanford won by 77 points, are good for the team. The starters get a chance to rest, avoiding injury, while bench players gain game experience and self-confidence, as well as the coaches’ confidence in them. It’s good for morale, too. “This team is learning to love to play together,” she said.

Starting point guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude “had a great week. She figured out Jayne was on her team. You throw the ball in to Jayne, you get an automatic assist,” Tara said. Playing only 18 minutes, Jayne tallied 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting plus four rebounds, three assists and one block. Ros had seven points, two rebounds, six assists and five steals in 23 minutes.

“Ros has developed a lot in just two weeks,” Tara said. “She has always played great defense, but now her decisions have improved.”

Singling out some bench players, Tara said that forward Michelle Harrison “had a big weekend for us,” scoring 16 points against Washington State. Freshman forward Sarah Boothe, who had her first double-double against Washington and contributed 13 points against Washington State, “is going to give people nightmares for the next four years.”

Looking ahead to the Cal game on Jan. 18, Tara said the Bears don’t have great size on the bench, but they’re “a very experienced team.” Senior forward Ashley Walker is a key to Cal’s success. “I think she’s a first-round pick in the WNBA draft,” Tara said.

On the health front, she said she hopes that point guard Melanie Murphy, who has been out with sprained big toes, and forward Ashley Cimino can return to practice this week.

At the very beginning of the tent, Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations, said that after the 112-35 rout of Washington on Jan. 8, she’s having trouble filling open dates on next season’s schedule. One assumes that some teams don’t want to risk such a huge loss. On the other hand, Duke and Tennessee have no such trepidations. They’re coming to Stanford in December.

In addition, Scott Schuhmann, associate athletic director, is looking for volunteers to help at the 2009 Senior Games in the San Francisco Bay Area from Aug. 1 to 15. More than 12,000 athletes ages 50 and over are expected to compete in 25 sports, with Stanford venues hosting 17 of the sports, including women’s basketball. Go here for more information about the Senior Games, including how to become a volunteer.

January 9, 2009

Fans relish record win and meet director of sports performance

Much has already been made of the Cardinal women’s 112-35 win over Washington, a 77-point margin of victory that set the record for both the Stanford women and Pac-10 women’s basketball. But there was much more to take from the Jan. 8 victory even though it was over a decidedly underwhelming opponent.

One was free-throw shooting – 18 of 21, or 85.7 percent – along with three-point shooting, 14 of 25, or 56 percent.

Another was the steadily improving play by starter Rosalyn Gold-Onwude at the point. She knocked down four of her five shots, all of them three-pointers, hauled in four rebounds, made four assists and stole the ball twice in just 21 minutes of playing time. She also displayed her usual bulldog defensive style. Head coach Tara VanDerveer, speaking to the Fast Break Club after the game, praised Ros for all the extra work she has put in to hone her game.

Then there were the six bench players, who also showed significant improvement and played more than half of the game, scoring a total of 47 points. Freshman forward Sarah Boothe had her first double-double. “She’s looking more fit. She loves to play, and she loves to work,” Tara said. “She’s very coachable.”

Freshman Lindy La Rocque played point for part of the game and tossed in three of her signature three-pointers. Freshman guard Grace Mashore, who had missed several games because of a groin injury, came in with 5:40 left on the clock and promptly poured in a three-pointer to push the Stanford tally to 100, setting off a crowd uproar. She also scored the game’s final points, another three-pointer, with 41 seconds left. In all, the bench accounted for six of the team’s 14 three-pointers.

“I’m excited for a lot of players on our team, but it’s kind of sad for the other team,” Tara said in her opening remarks after the game. She noted that center Jayne Appel was 10 for 12 in her shooting and that “Jill’s been on a roll,” referring to senior forward Jillian Harmon, who has been a spark plug in recent games. “It’s really great to have that senior leadership.” As for guard Jeanette Pohlen, “she’s special,” the coach said.

Assessing the team’s primary conference rival, Tara said, “It works in our favor when Cal plays well.” So far, Cal has matched Stanford win-for-win in the Pac-10. There’s no opportunity for the Cardinal women to take any game for granted because its cross-bay foe is always breathing down their necks.

Guard Melanie Murphy again sat out the game with sprained big toes. Forward Ashley Cimino didn’t play because of back spasms. Tara hopes to have them back at practice next week.

The one disappointing note on the injury front (aside from point guard JJ Hones, who’s out for the season while recuperating from ACL surgery) is that senior forward Morgan Clyburn probably won’t play at all this season. She underwent surgery on both feet at the end of last season, and the healing has been slower than expected. Nevertheless, “she’s a great mom for the team,” Tara said. She’ll graduate in June and will not red shirt. Instead, Tara expects the biomedical engineering major to go on to great things professionally.

One fan asked if the team will wear the black road uniforms that they sported all the way to the NCAA championship game last season. The coach said that will be her decision. She wants them to be more aggressive. “We haven’t been road warriors yet.”

On the other hand, the Cardinal played some of the best teams in the nation leading up to conference competition. “Our tough schedule really has helped us,” Tara said. “All we want to do is keep improving.”

Prior to Tara’s comments, Brandon Marcello, Stanford director of sports performance, talked about his role in helping all of the university’s athletes. He’s concerned about strength, conditioning, nutrition, recovery and rest – “every single aspect of performance.” All of his and his staff’s efforts are intended to prevent injuries and help the players throughout their college years and afterward.

Brandon’s colleagues include Devan McConnell, recently hired as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the women’s basketball team, along with the team’s trainer, Marcella Shorty. In addition to his staff’s work with players, Brandon is coordinating with other campus resources such as the sleep center, human performance lab and even the engineering department to find ways to help.

Women’s basketball players are undergoing 3-D screenings at the human performance lab to see how their knees function. The goal is to find ways to prevent the ACL injuries that have plagued female basketball players throughout the nation.

He and his colleagues have been counseling JJ, who had her second ACL surgery on Dec. 29, on how to speed her recovery. They have advised her to take 400 mg of fish oil every day to reduce inflammation, eat foods rich in anti-oxidants and eliminate processed foods.

They also have helped Jayne and Jeanette schedule when to eat. In general, he advises athletes to eat every three hours and after exercise. Because it’s important to maintain muscle mass, he advises them to drink a cup of milk before bedtime. Nonfat milk is usually preferred, but whole milk is better for players recovering from stress injuries.

He has three general nutritional rules for athletes:
  1. Eat a rainbow of foods – the more color on the plate the better – meaning lots of colorful vegetables and fruits.
  2. Get your protein from lean sources – the fewer legs they have, the better. That means that poultry is better than beef, pork or lamb, but fish is best of all.
  3. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (fish, certain nuts, among others) to decrease inflammation, but stay away from foods with omega-6 fatty acids (some cooking oils, egg yolks, red meats and organ meats, among others).
He also advises athletes to stay hydrated. Along those lines, he’s planning to get a camera that will help detect when a player is becoming overheated.