January 21, 2011

Cardinal breeze by the Bruins

On paper, the Stanford vs. UCLA game at Maples Pavilion on Jan. 20 was supposed to be competitive, what with the Cardinal ranked fourth and the Bruins eighth in the AP national poll.

Tear up that paper. Stanford won 64-38 and placed itself squarely atop the Pac-10 conference.

“It was a great game for our team,” head coach Tara VanDerveer told the Fast Break Club afterward. UCLA was “very disruptive” in this “very physical game.” Therefore, Stanford tried “to take away their strengths.”

She credited assistant coach Bobbie Kelsey for “a great job of scouting” and the team for paying attention to the scouting report. “Our team focuses really well,” Tara said, adding, “Kudos to our defense.”

Mel makes welcome return

One of the highlights for Stanford fans was the return of fifth-year senior guard Melanie Murphy. She had been cleared to play only two days earlier after rehabbing from microfracture knee surgery at the end of last season. Many fans thought that if she got into the game at all, it would be toward the end with Stanford enjoying a big lead.

Instead, Tara sent her in with 6:03 left in the first half. Five minutes later, Mel stole the ball, ran down court and made a tough basket, bringing the crowd of nearly 4,300 to its feet. The crowd roared again in the second half when Mel’s basket was shown on the video board as the Impossible Play of the Game. She played a total of 7 minutes and contributed those two points and the steal. “I thought she did very well,” Tara told the FBC.

Mel’s return bodes well for greater depth and experience in the guard contingent.

The video board caught the players’ attention even before their official entrance. It featured the KerryCam video shot by team manager Kerry Blake during the team’s trip to the two Washington schools the previous week. The players stood laughing and smiling near their door.

The video showed such sequences as senior guard Jeanette Pohlen simulating a media interview with senior forward Kayla Pedersen and sophomore forward Mikaela Ruef after they had defeated Tara and red-shirt sophomore forward Sarah Boothe in a euchre game while awaiting a delayed flight. The link to the SWBB YouTube channel is available on the left side of the FBC website.

The team’s entrance, pre-game warmups, the National Anthem (sung by Stanford’s Everyday People) and player introductions proceeded as usual. Then the game was delayed for several minutes because the clock was malfunctioning. Between that delay and other stoppages for fouls and timeouts, the game seemed to run longer than usual.

Besides Tara’s comments, the FBC gathering featured a silent auction for a No. 14 jersey autographed by Kayla. Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations, said that even though the FBC auction is on hiatus this year, player jerseys are so popular that a silent auction seemed in order. The minimum bid was $150 with the winner to be chosen the next day. In case of a tie, Tara would draw the winning bid from the basket.

New staff member aims to boost attendance

Eileen then introduced Kevin Aha, the new marketing associate for women’s basketball, who has been on the job since early November, shortly before the first exhibition game. The 2008 graduate of the University of Virginia worked at Auburn and the University of Akron before arriving on The Farm.

He said his job entails two primary goals. The first is to “build awareness and get people to come to these amazing games,” he said. The second is to go beyond the game itself and to make all aspects of it fun. That goal covers such areas as the halftime entertainment, music and the videos.

He’s enlisting the FBC to help increase attendance by staging the Fast Break Club Sales Showdown. It asks FBC members to tell groups they’re involved in that they can form groups of 10 or more to buy tickets at the discounted prices of $4 for general admission or $14 for upper reserved. Those groups could include churches, clubs, social or fraternal organizations and family groups.

When they buy their tickets, they list the FBC member as their reference. The FBC member who accounts for the most tickets sold by Feb. 21 will win a seat on the bench at the Feb. 26 game against Oregon.

The phone number for the ticket office is (650) 726-8181. Kevin can be reached for questions and suggestions at (650) 725-0779 or kaha@stanford.edu.

Interns learning the ropes

Kevin was followed by two more additions to the WBB staff – interns Lauren Greif and Sha’Rae Gibbons Mitchell. Lauren is well known to Stanford fans after playing guard at Cal for the past four years. Sha’Rae was a guard at UC Santa Barbara.

Even though they don’t get paid, “They do a tremendous amount of work,” associate head coach Amy Tucker said. “They are both going to be great young coaches,” she said, adding that, among other things, they have been learning about recruiting and breaking down scouting tapes.

Sha’Rae explained that a computer program allows them to view a game video and label almost any aspect of the team’s, opponent’s or individual player’s game such as missed shots, 3-pointers, assists and others. The results are viewed by staff, team and individual players.

During the game, Lauren said, the interns work on statistics, chart plays and make note of who’s doing what, such as setting screens.

“This (Stanford basketball) program is different for a reason,” Sha’Rae said, citing the caliber of players and coaches. “Tara watches a ton of film,” she said.

Lauren said she’s impressed by “the staff and players’ ability to stay on an even keel” even after the historic win against UConn.

One fan asked what the interns are learning at Stanford that they hope to incorporate into their own coaching careers. “I’m going to go with Tara’s humor,” Lauren said, adding that the head coach is honest but funny.

“I’ve always wanted to be in coaching,” she said. That, along with her experience of playing against Stanford for four years, led her to apply for the internship.

Sha’Rae said she hopes to have the coaching staff’s “ability to enjoy what (they’re) doing” after so many years in the profession.

Tara cited one reason why she enjoys the job. Referring to the team, she said, “These are the nicest kids you can ever imagine.”

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