April 18, 2009

Meet the team – Awards Banquet, Part Two

The Stanford women’s basketball team’s annual awards banquet April 15 at the Stanford Faculty Club honored the entire team and coaches as well as the most outstanding players. Attended by 240 people, it also recognized those who work behind the scenes.

In addition, fans could chat with the players, coaches and staff and see the players dressed up rather than in their uniforms. They all looked beautiful.  (see photos)

Head coach Tara VanDerveer served as emcee. After thanking university administrators and staff for their support, she introduced the team by class, starting with the freshmen:
  • Forward Sarah Boothe – She shot 52 percent from the field and ranked third on the team in blocked shots. “She's tough,” never missing a practice.
  • Guard Lindy La Rocque – “Lindy already has a defining play, the Lindy lunge.” Tara was referring to Lindy’s diving under a Cal player to retrieve a loose ball and, while lying on her stomach, passing it to senior forward Jillian Harmon for an easy layup in the victory at Maples. Lindy also was second on the team in 3-point shooting. Lindy’s father was at the dinner.
  • Guard Grace Mashore – “Grace is working hard to contribute to the team’s success.”
  • Forward Nneka Ogwumike – “Nneka had a fabulous freshman year,” leading the Pac 10 in field goal percentage and being named to the conference’s all-freshman and all-tournament teams.
After thanking the medical and training staff, Tara introduced the sophomores:
  • Forward Ashley Cimino – She adds depth to the post rotation and is “a very intelligent player.”
  • Guard Hannah Donaghe – She was doing well until being sidelined by a torn ACL. Recuperating from surgery, Hannah had a heavy-duty brace on her leg.
  • Forward Kayla Pedersen – Another intelligent player, she was the team’s second leading rebounder. She played both the 3 and 4 positions and was named MVP of the Pac-10 tourney, among other honors.
  • Guard Jeanette Pohlen – Not only was she the most improved player this season, she was the most improved player Tara has ever coached at Stanford, the coach said. She ranked second all time (to guard Candice Wiggins, ’08) in total minutes played in the season. Her improved stats were highlighted by 83 3-pointers this year versus 18 last year. “Now the challenge is to one-up yourself,” Tara said. Jeanette’s parents were there.
After more thank-yous, Tara turned to the juniors:
  • Center Jayne Appel – Besides being the team’s most outstanding player, “You also improved a lot,” Tara told her. Her list of records and honors is long, but one that is particularly noteworthy is that she was second on the team in assists – probably the best record of any post player in the nation. She battles under the boards, yet displays maturity and unselfishness – “a real team-first player.” Jayne’s parents also were there.
  • Forward Michelle Harrison – After missing most of last season with a torn ACL, she returned healthy this year. “We’re all thankful for that,” Tara said, noting that Michelle often played with the scout team in practice.
  • Guard Melanie Murphy – She also missed most of last season with a torn ACL, and she had some minor injuries this year. Nevertheless, she worked hard and contributed to the team’s success.
  • Guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude – The turning point in her season came in the Cal win when she held Alexis Gray-Lawson to a mere 4 points at Maples after Lawson had burned the Cardinal with 37 in the Bears’ 3-point victory in Berkeley. Tara added that the red-shirt junior (who missed most of the 2006-07 season with an ACL) is working on her master’s in sociology.
Next Tara recognized radio KZSU announcer Jake Kelman, “the voice of Stanford basketball,” who is graduating, and San Francisco Chronicle reporter Michelle Smith, who is taking a voluntary buyout after 14 years of covering women’s basketball. Michelle is “knowledgeable, professional and gifted,” Tara said, adding that both Michelle and Jake are “so passionate about what they do.” Tara also honored the team managers and male practice players.

Finally she turned to the seniors:
  • Forward Morgan Clyburn – Morgan couldn’t play this season following extensive foot surgery at the end of last season. She tried hard to come back, “but her feet didn’t cooperate.” Even though she couldn’t contribute on the court, she provided “a mature voice and served as a mentor to our younger players.”
  • Jill – “It’s been a thrill to coach Jill,” the team’s outstanding defensive player. Tara was referring to Jill's nickname, “Jill the Thrill.” She listed Jill’s accomplishments, including playing for New Zealand at last year’s Olympics. Even as a freshman, Jill successfully guarded Seimone Augustus, the outstanding Louisiana State guard who now plays with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, Candice’s team. As someone who plays with “hustle, grit and fearlessness, we will be hard-pressed to replace you in our starting lineup,” Tara said.
Jill and Morgan thanked the fans and everyone else for their support. Morgan added that she appreciated being included in everything even though she couldn’t play. Their teammates expressed their love and appreciation for the two seniors in notes included in the program.

With Jill the only active player leaving, with junior point guard JJ Hones expected to return from her ACL injury (she is studying with a Stanford program in Spain this term) and with two promising recruits coming in, fans have a lot to look forward to.

The team will face major challenges right away, playing Pepperdine, Gonzaga, DePaul, Duke, Tennessee and Utah at home and traveling to UConn, Rutgers, UC Davis, Fresno State and Old Dominion. So even though there are no more games this season, the returning players were expected to show up at the track the next day at 7 a.m. Tara also spoke to them in a circle after the dinner.

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