February 26, 2013

Seniors share spotlight with Chiney

When forwards Mikaela Ruef and Joslyn Tinkle arrived on the Farm as freshmen in 2009, they quickly formed a bond of friendship that continues today.

That friendship was obvious Feb. 24 when the Stanford women’s basketball team celebrated Mikaela and Joslyn’s Senior Day and defeated Oregon 74-50. That victory was aided by a record-setting performance by junior forward Chiney Ogwumike.

Senior Day festivities followed the game as the video board showed highlights from the two players’ careers set to “Thank You for Being a Friend,” TV’s “Golden Girls” theme song sung by Cynthia Fee.

Families join the seniors

Their teammates formed a reception line as Joslyn with her parents and Mikaela with her parents and grandparents walked to center court to receive flowers and hugs from head coach Tara VanDerveer.

Announcer Betty Ann Boeving enumerated each player’s various accomplishments. As of that game, Mikaela has played in 88 games and has made 21 starts in her career. She missed all but three games last season because of a foot injury.

Joslyn became a member of the team’s 1,000-point club two days earlier against Oregon State. The afternoon’s game was her 134th.

After posing for photographs, the team went to the locker room for a short break before returning for a Behind the Bench session honoring the seniors. “It’s bittersweet,” associate head coach Amy Tucker said of Senior Day. Tara spoke of her pleasure in “seeing improvement and maturation in these young women.”

Sara calls Mikaela ‘one of my best friends’

Speaking for the team, junior guard Sara James talked about how she had become good friends with Mikaela and then Joslyn during her freshman year. Mikaela “has always been one of my best friends,” Sara said. “I’m really excited that she’s coming back next year.” She also noted how smart Mikaela is, especially in math.

Because Mikaela redshirted during her junior year, she has another year of eligibility. She will be back on campus because she has been accepted in a Stanford graduate engineering program.

Tara is hopeful that Mikaela will also be on the team next season, so she might celebrate another Senior Day then. It has been the team’s practice to honor players who come in together even if one of them is returning, Tara said. “This is practice” (for next year), she said.

She said she first saw Mikaela play at a tournament in Atlanta and was impressed when she hit 3’s. Tara also was pleased that Mikaela was a good student – the first of several steps for admission to Stanford.

Mikaela’s father, Mike, speaking for himself and her mother, Katie, said “To raise a daughter like Mikaela is, in a word, challenging.” He once lost an argument with her when she was only 3 years old, he said.

As a third-grader, she played on a fourth-grade team and knew its opponents’ plays. “She has a mind for basketball,” he said.

Because her grandparents used to live in Connecticut, they wanted her to go to UConn. Her parents hoped she would go to Ohio State in their home state, but after her grandparents moved to the Bay Area, the Ruefs felt better about her choosing Stanford.

“She made the right choice. She’s with the right people,” Mike said.

One fan asked why Mikaela wears 3 on her jersey. She said that she randomly chose a jersey with that number in second grade, and after that, things seemed to get better for her. There have been a lot of 3’s or multiples of 3’s in her life. “I do things in 3’s,” she said.

Tara cites Joslyn’s basketball instincts

Speaking of Joslyn, Tara said she first saw the Montana resident play at a tournament in Arizona. “She just took people apart. … This is the type of player we want at Stanford,” she said. She cited Joslyn’s good basketball instincts, which probably come from her parents, Wayne and Lisa, who both played basketball. Wayne is still involved as head coach of the University of Montana men’s team.

“She is total high energy, very enthusiastic,” Tara said. She can play just about any position. She’s “a wonderful young lady,” and “we’ve got a lot (of games) left in her,” with two more season games plus the Pac 12 and NCAA tournaments.

The coach repeated a story that Joslyn had related earlier in her Stanford career. Tara was visiting the Tinkles in Montana as part of the recruiting process. As she was leaving, Lisa said to Tara, “Watch out for the bear.” With that, Tara “sprinted to her rental car,” Wayne said a few minutes later.

Speaking for the team, Chiney said that Joslyn “is an extension of her family. They’re just beautiful people. … She’s always motivated. It shows on and off the court. She’s such a special person” to her team.

Chiney added that she’d like to frame Joslyn’s signature red bow after she leaves Stanford.

When Wayne was playing basketball professionally overseas and had the family with him, Joslyn made her first jump shot when she was in first grade.

Now “We feel honored to be part of the Stanford family,” he said. Stanford “was an amazing choice for her” because of its academics and the basketball team and staff. When she signed, he told Tara that Joslyn is very special. Since then, “you’ve done remarkable things with her,” he said to the coach.

After graduation, Joslyn said she wants to pursue her basketball career overseas or wherever it takes her. Eventually she might be interested in coaching and would like to team up again with Mikaela.

Speaking of the afternoon’s game, Tara said, “We finished out strong,” and credited the seniors’ leadership.

Joslyn and Mikaela are the team’s captains, along with Chiney.

Chiney surpasses sister’s records

Chiney’s accomplishments in the afternoon’s game were precedent-setting. She set a Stanford record with 52 double-doubles, surpassing the previous record of 51 held by her sister Nneka, who graduated in June. With 24 rebounds, she set the team’s single-game rebound record, again eclipsing Nneka.
She also became the sixth player to have at least 1,000 career rebounds (she has 1,010 so far) and 1,000 points (1,600 so far). Others who have achieved that milestone are Nneka; Kayla Pedersen, ’11; Jayne Appel, ’10; Nicole Powell, ’04; and Val Whiting, ’93.
Besides her 24 rebounds, she scored 27 points and made four assists, three blocks and four steals in 34 minutes. The only other player in double figures was sophomore guard Amber Orrange, who had 12 points to go with four assists, one rebound, one block and one steal in 31 minutes.
Mikaela had 5 points, nine rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal in 19 minutes. Joslyn added 4 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 32 minutes.
The team made six of its 28, or 21.4 percent, 3-point attempts. Sara and sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson each had two, while sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield and redshirt freshman Jasmine Camp each had one.
Although this was the last regular-season home game, fans can see the team at Maples at least once more time and most likely twice when Stanford hosts the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament March 24 and 26. The Events part of this FBC website has details.

February 25, 2013

Cardinal coast to win over Beavers

With 6:39 to go and the score at 78-39, the five Stanford starters relaxed on the bench as their teammates closed out the game to defeat Oregon State 90-53 at home Feb. 22.

None of the five had played more than 31 minutes, yet during that time, several milestones were achieved.

For example, less than two minutes had expired in the second half when senior forward Joslyn Tinkle became the 34th member of the Stanford women’s basketball’s 1,000-point club. Playing 24 minutes, Joslyn finished with 11 points plus four rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Junior forward Chiney Ogwumike tied a Stanford record with her 51st career double-double by scoring 19 points to go with 12 rebounds plus two assists, four blocks and two steals in 28 minutes. She scored 11 of her points by hitting a career-high 11 free throws (of 13 attempts).

Chiney makes a legendary play

Every so often a Stanford player makes a play that becomes a Cardinal legend. Chiney did that at the 11:26 mark in the second half. While falling toward a photographer under the Stanford basket, she tossed the ball up in a wild shot that went through the hoop.

She didn’t realize she had made the shot until her teammates went to pull her up and told her. Her joy became even greater when she realized she would get a free throw, which she made. In the meantime, her teammates and the crowd went wild as the video board ran several replays of those moments.

Coming off the bench, sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield had the team’s second-highest point total with 18, matching her career high. A dozen of her points came from making four of five 3-pointers. Taylor also pulled down a rebound during her 24 minutes. Many fans saw her performance as a sign that she has regained confidence and emerged from a slump that had lasted several games.

Also in double figures was sophomore guard Amber Orrange, who scored 15 points to go with three rebounds, six assists and two steals in a team-high 31 minutes.

Redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef scored 6 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and added six assists plus a block in 27 minutes. Junior guard Sara James chipped in 8 points, two rebounds and one steal in 21 minutes.

Team makes 10 3’s

As a team, the Cardinal made 10 of 22 3-point attempts, led by Taylor’s four, plus two each from Sara and Joslyn, and one each from Amber and sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson.

In all, head coach Tara VanDerveer deployed 11 players, nine of whom scored. Once again, junior guard Toni Kokenis was not in uniform because of an undisclosed illness.

Because it was Fan Appreciation Night, the video board displayed clips of the players thanking the fans for their support. T-shirt tosses were another part of the festivities.

At one point, announcer Betty Ann Boeving asked fans who had been attending the games for at least 10 years to rise. Although there was no way to count them, the number of standees was impressive. There still was a goodly number when those who had been going for 20 years and then 25 years were asked to rise.

Even though OSU was a relatively easy opponent with a 3-11 conference record and an overall 9-17 record coming into the game, the Beavers never gave up. However, they got quite physical at times, especially in the first half, but backed off in the second half to finish with 14 fouls compared with Stanford’s six.

Bench players get important minutes

Perhaps one of the more rewarding aspects of the game is that because Stanford had pulled so far ahead, the starters got to rest and other players got valuable experience. Thus they could add to the team’s depth as the stakes get higher.

One more observation: Sometimes it’s almost as much fun to watch the bench as it is to watch the game. All of the players on the bench constantly encourage their teammates. Their joy when someone does something well is a sheer delight.

Often they seem happier at a teammate’s accomplishment than their own. It’s a pleasure to see their camaraderie.  

February 12, 2013

Cardinal milestones in pink

Pink was the color of the day as the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated Arizona State 69-45 on Feb. 10, Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

In honor of the occasion, the visiting Sun Devils wore pink uniforms while the host Cardinal wore their home white uniforms with pink trim, pink hair ribbons or headbands, and, much to the players’ delight, bright pink shoes. The Tree had some pink leaves, and the cheerleaders and Dollies wore pink hair ribbons. The referees had pink whistles.

Many fans in the crowd of 4,510 also wore various versions of pink. In the family section, Mike James, father of junior guard Sara James, sported the pink tutu that had been handed down to him via a tradition started in 2010 by the father of Jayne Appel.

Because Jayne was graduating that year, he gave it to John Pohlen, father of Jeanette Pohlen, to wear the following year, when Jeanette was a senior. In turn, it was passed along to Al La Rocque, father of Lindy La Rocque, who graduated in June.

Although the tradition had been to give it to the father of a senior-to-be, this time it was to Sara’s dad because the families of the two academic seniors, forwards Joslyn Tinkle and Mikaela Ruef, live too far away to be sure they could make it to the game. Thus it seems that Mike James will keep it for another year, when he’ll pass it along to the father of one of this year’s sophomores.

Besides the various pink touches on their uniforms, both teams wore black warmup shirts with pink lettering spelling out “Play 4 Kay.” It was their way of honoring the late Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame coach of the North Carolina State team who died of breast cancer in 2009. The Kay Yow/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Cancer Fund was established in her honor.

The Stanford day was sponsored by the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center. Facts about breast cancer were displayed on the video board throughout the game.

Team celebrates milestones

It didn’t take long for Stanford to establish dominance in the game. With about six minutes to go in the first half, the score was 22-16 and junior forward Chiney Ogwumike had already scored 10 points.

By the time she went to the bench with about three minutes to go, Chiney had recorded 26 points and 14 rebounds for her eighth consecutive double-double and her 19th of the season. She also contributed one assist and one steal in her 37 minutes.

Chiney’s point total included 6 from the free-throw line, where she was perfect. Overall, the team made 14 of 16, or 87.5 percent, of its free throws.

Another game milestone came from sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson, who scored a career high 19 points in 26 minutes. She made 15 of those points on five 3-pointers, her highest number this season. She added two rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Alex returns to action

A third milestone was reached when redshirt freshman guard Alex Green got her first playing time in 15 months after an Achilles injury. Playing three minutes, she had one rebound and took one shot, which she missed. As the ball left her hands, her teammates on the bench rose as one, waiting to cheer for her.

It didn’t happen this time, but when the final whistle sounded, several of them gave her a big hug. Even though she didn’t get much playing time in this game, she appeared confident and handled the ball well, portending good things ahead for her and the team.

And the final milestone – Joslyn had her first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes. Defensively, she had four blocks and a steal.

As was the case against Arizona on Feb. 8, junior guard Toni Kokenis didn’t play because she wasn’t feeling well. Mikaela started in her place.

By the time the game was over, every player in uniform except sophomore forward Erica Payne had seen action.

Halftime entertainment featured the McGrath Irish Dancers from the East Bay. Ranging from perhaps first grade through high school, the girls went through a precision routine that involved intricate steps but no movement above the waist except when they joined hands at various times. This was a return visit for the group, which is always a crowd favorite.

After the game, fans gathered for a Behind the Bench session. While waiting, they saw the Dollies dancing with some children at the north end of the court before one of the Dollies took over the band leader’s baton while the leader joined the Dollies in a routine.

Dogs attract Tara’s attention

In the meantime, a group of service dogs in training and their trainers were at the south end posing for pictures with the Tree. When head coach Tara VanDerveer, herself a dog owner, came onto the court, she headed straight for the dogs to pet them and talk with their trainers. She later told the fans that the trainers were exposing the dogs to crowds and, presumably, noise.

When Chiney came onto the court to join two of her teammates in signing autographs for a long line of fans, she spoke briefly, saying “It was a fun game.” She introduced her uncle and young cousin from Fremont and said that her sister Nneka’s team is atop its league in Poland. Nneka, ’12, is enjoying a visit from their mother.

Tara began her comments by saying, “Kay Yow would be very proud of this team. They’re very unselfish. They’re about our team.”

She also said it was good to see ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne, who has returned from the year’s leave of absence she took to spend more time with her family. She’s a 1988 Stanford basketball alum.

“It was really exciting to see Alex come in,” Tara said. She noted that Mikaela has another year of eligibility and might be able to return. “We’re hoping that will happen,” she said, but “it’s convoluted.”

“We’re getting a lot of contributions from a lot of different people,” she said. “They’re like an orchestra. Different nights there are different solos.”

She has been getting some advice from her mother, who lives in Colorado and plans to attend the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle. She told Tara to bubble-wrap Chiney.

“Our team is mentally and emotionally very healthy,” the coach concluded.

February 9, 2013

Chiney gets help from her friends

Chiney Ogwumike registered her seventh consecutive double-double and her 18th of the season as the Stanford women’s basketball team defeated Arizona 73-43 in Maples Pavilion on Feb. 8. However, the junior forward had lots of help as several of her teammates made significant contributions in the victory.

Perhaps the most gratifying and encouraging contribution came from redshirt junior forward Mikaela Ruef, who recorded the first double-double of her career. Until that night, Mikaela was primarily noted for defense and rebounds, but this performance, with its 11 points and 10 rebounds, made her a more potent offensive weapon. In addition, it signified major progress for a player who sat out most of last season because of a foot injury. Mikaela also recorded two assists in 24 minutes.

Chiney’s output included 18 points, 12 rebounds and two steals in 33 minutes. Senior forward Joslyn Tinkle added 15 points, four rebounds and one assist in 15 minutes. Her time was limited by four fouls, but her point total included three of four from behind the arc.

The two starting guards, sophomore Amber Orrange and junior Sara James, scored 6 and 9 points, respectively. Sara also had one rebound and four assists in 17 minutes. Her points included one 3. Amber added four assists, one block and three steals in 28 minutes.

Coming off the bench, sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson had 8 points, one rebound and one steal in 18 minutes. She was 0-6 on 3’s, but she was a perfect 4-4 at the free-throw line. Initially known as a 3-point shooter, she’s showing more versatility near the basket and on defense.

Sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield’s only scoring came from a 3-pointer, one of the team’s five for the night. Taylor had five rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes.

Mikaela started the game in place of junior guard Toni Kokenis, who was held out because of an undisclosed illness.

The game started slowly, and Arizona moved ahead 4-6 at the 15:47 mark and began applying the full-court pressure that continued most of the game. By the 8:05 mark, however, Stanford was ahead 18-13 and Chiney had already scored 10 points.

The referees called a close game, whistling Arizona for 21 fouls and Stanford for 18. Stanford cashed in by making 18 of 27 free throws, while Arizona made 10 of 19. Each team had 19 turnovers.

With the Cardinal comfortably ahead 68-35 with 7:10 to go in the second half, Chiney went to the bench for the night. Ultimately, all available players got into the game.

Before the game started, the crowd of slightly more than 3,500 had a chance to cheer for head coach Tara VanDerveer. It was announced that she had won her 400th conference game – more than any other Division 1 coach – against Oregon the previous weekend.

The subsequent wins over Oregon State and now Arizona brought that total to 402.

Also getting the evening off to a good start was Motley Q, the men’s barbershop quartet that sang the national anthem.

Halftime featured an entertaining, well-played scrimmage by sixth- and eighth-grade girls from the Coyote Creek National Junior Basketball chapter on the south side of San Jose. NJB is a program for boys and girls in grades 3-8.