January 9, 2012

Nneka vaults into exclusive Cardinal club

Leading her team to a 67-60 victory over Oregon State at home on Jan. 7 and playing 39 minutes, senior forward Nneka Ogwumike became only the fourth player in the history of Stanford women’s basketball to tally at least 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds over her collegiate career.

With a team-high 33 points and 16 rebounds, she joined only three others -- Jayne Appel, ’10; Nicole Powell, ’04; and Val Whiting, ’93 – in the exclusive 2,000/1,000 club. She was the first to reach both milestones in the same game.

The only other players to score at least 2,000 points are Candice Wiggins, ’08; Kate Starbird, ’97; and Jeanne Ruark Hoff, ’83. The only other player to snare at least 1,000 rebounds is Kayla Pedersen, ’11.

Nneka reached the 1,000-rebound mark with less than 7 minutes to go in the first half. With 46 seconds left in the game, she hit her 33rd point to reach 2,000 for her career.

The Cardinal needed every one of Nneka’s minutes, points and rebounds, as well as her two blocks and one assist against the scrappy Beavers. The team also got a big lift from her sister, sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike, who had 20 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and one steal in 35 minutes.

It’s worth noting that Chiney made four of four at the free-throw line, an area where she hasn’t always had success. As I headed toward my seat about 55 minutes before tipoff, most of the team was in the locker room after initial warmups, but Chiney was still on the court practicing free throws. The extra work apparently paid off.

Together, the sisters accounted for 53 of the team’s 67 points and 26 of its 45 rebounds. The only other points came from junior forward Joslyn Tinkle with 5 and from senior guard Lindy La Rocque, sophomore guard Toni Kokenis and freshman forward Bonnie Samuelson with 3 each.

Arriving to cheers and a standing ovation, Nneka appeared briefly before fans gathered behind the bench after the game. “We’re so proud of you,” associate head coach Amy Tucker said.

Tara’s take on Nneka and the game

Head coach Tara VanDerveer noted that a San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist recently called Nneka “a precious gem.” Tara agreed with that assessment, noting “how hard she works (and) what a great leader she’s been for our team” She’s “one of the greatest players to ever play at Stanford.”

With the Cardinal trailing 31-35 at the half, “you did not want to be in that locker room” during the break, Tara told the fans. After whatever words the coach had for her players during halftime, “we did much better defensively” and with rebounds, she said. Toni and freshman guard Amber Orrange “helped us a lot defensively.”

“We had to battle,” Tara said. “Every team in the Pac-12 wants what we have,” she said referring to the Maples banner listing year after year of the team’s conference championships.

“This is an excellent win for our team” that will “help us in the long run,” she said. “It was a bumpy road the whole game,” but Nneka and Chiney “put the team on their back.”
“Winning is winning. We do whatever it takes.”

She cited Joslyn’s overall play. “She’s really helped us,” Tara said. Besides scoring 5 points, Joslyn had six rebounds, three steals and one assist in 18 minutes.

Tara also reported that Joslyn’s classmate, forward Mikaela Ruef, is getting better after missing several games with a foot injury.

Dog lovers have their day

Even though the game was a nail-biter, there were lots of laughs because of Dog Lovers Day. It started with a Peninsula Humane Society display of cute, playful dogs available for adoption outside the northwest entrance before the game.

Before and during the game, the scoreboard displayed pictures of fans’ dogs, many in Stanford attire. It also featured videos of doggie antics.

One of them was what appeared to be a St. Bernard or Bernese mountain dog sitting in the front passenger seat of a car. As the driver ate a sandwich, the dog drooled ever more copiously before being given the last morsel. Speaking to fans after the game, Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations, said she was glad she didn’t have to clean up the puddles.

The highlight of Dog Lovers Day was the annual visit of the Ace Dog Sports agility dogs. Led by their owners, 11 dogs ran, jumped and wiggled through an obstacle course that included two fabric tunnels. The dogs were of assorted breeds, ages and sizes from tiny Roxie to Zoe, a Great Dane.

Susan visits with fans

Besides Nneka’s brief hello after the game, fans enjoyed hearing from Susan Borchardt, ’06, the team’s sports performance coach. Susan “was one of our most tenacious defenders that we’ve ever had,” Amy said.

“It’s great to be back,” Susan said. In addition to overall strength and conditioning, her duties include providing nutritional guidance, helping some players stretch before games, instituting more running and working with individual players. Some, for example, are trying to gain muscle mass while some are working on body composition.

She works with injured players, focusing on what they can do rather than what they can’t do. Since she herself came back from two knee injuries, she can provide firsthand knowledge and encouragement, reassuring the players that they can come back and be better than ever, she said.

Amy added that it’s helpful that Susan is a former player because she can advise players. She also makes helpful observations for the coaches. “It’s almost like having another assistant coach,” Amy said.

During games, she fetches the stool where Tara sits while talking to the team during timeouts. She’s available to run to the locker room for whatever and will stretch players who need it.

After graduating from Stanford, Susan played in the WNBA for a year. She then went to Spain to join her husband, Curtis Borchardt, who was playing professional basketball after playing at Stanford. She subsequently continued her education and received certification as a sports and conditioning coach, working with Curtis’s team in Spain.

Now living in Palo Alto, she and Curtis have three children: a 21-month-old son and 5½-month-old twins, a boy and a girl. Curtis was back at Stanford last term to complete his degree and has just returned to basketball.

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