July 19, 2013

Players prepare for Italy, new season

As if preparing for the upcoming season and getting some needed classes under their belts weren’t enough, players for the Stanford women’s basketball team have some additional incentives to attend summer school.

The biggest and best is that the team is taking a 10-day trip – Aug. 27-Sept. 5 – to Italy. Visiting Rome, Florence and Venice, the players will combine sightseeing and competing as they face three Italian teams. “Italy is a good carrot,” said associate head coach Amy Tucker.

Women’s basketball in Italy is somewhat different from the setup in the United States. The Italians play on club teams, which are rated A1 and A2, according to ability. The Stanford women will play one or two A1 teams plus one or two A2 teams, Amy said.

With professional players who are usually older than collegiate players, A1 teams provide “excellent competition,” Amy said, adding that these players also have full-time jobs.

Because the team is going overseas, it is allowed to practice for two hours each during the 10 days before leaving, Amy said.

When the team took its last overseas trip, also to Italy, four years ago, freshmen weren’t allowed to go. That meant that Joslyn Tinkle and Mikaela Ruef had to stay behind. Joslyn graduated in June, but Mikaela is still with the team because she red-shirted one year, so she gets to go this time.

Thanks to a rule change, so do the five incoming freshmen.

In addition, this is “the first summer that coaches are allowed to work with players” for two hours a week, Amy said.

Everyone’s in the area

Therefore, the entire team is in the area and is available for practice. The freshmen and some of the others are taking classes, and some returning players have lent a hand at hoops camps run by head coach Tara VanDerveer.

Junior forward Erica Payne has an internship, as does senior guard Toni Kokenis, who is working in physical therapy.

Amy had no comment about whether Toni would play in the upcoming season. Because of an undisclosed medical condition last season, Toni did not play after the Feb. 3 game at Oregon State.

Likewise, Amy had no comment about redshirt freshman forward Aly Beebe. Recovering from a knee injury, Aly didn’t play last season. It has been hoped that she would be ready to play this season.

Freshmen please the coaches

The coaches are pleased with the five freshmen. On the roster they’re listed as forward Kailee Johnson, forward Erica McCall, guard Briana Roberson, forward Karlie Samuelson (sister of junior forward Bonnie Samuelson) and guard Lili Thompson.

Amy classifies them as three guard-wings and two power forwards.

“They’re doing awesome. They’re going to help us tremendously,” Amy said. She expects some of them to be in the top rotation when the season starts. For now, they’re helping to make practices more competitive, she said.

Going to summer school also “is a great opportunity to get a couple classes under their belts” and to adjust to the campus, college life and college-level playing, Amy said. “It’s a big change for them.”

As for the returning players, “Everyone has improved from the spring,” Amy said.

New faces on staff

The staff has undergone some changes, too. Tempie Brown has replaced assistant coach Trina Patterson, who left to become an assistant coach at Old Dominion University in her home state of Virginia. “Tempie is doing great,” Amy said. She’s still getting settled, but she has been working with the team and recruiting.

Tempie has had 14 years of coaching experience and comes to Stanford after four years at Michigan State.

Also new to the staff is performance coach Brittany Keil, who comes to Stanford after five years at Holy Cross, where she had played basketball for four years.

“We’re really pleased with Brittany,” Amy said. She has been working with the players on strength and conditioning.

Coaches keep extra busy

While the players have been going through their academic and athletic paces, the coaches have had duties beyond coaching. They’ve helped at Tara’s hoops camps, and they’re been on the road recruiting.

“We’re getting good recruits,” Amy said.

When Amy and I talked July 17, recruiting nationwide was in the midst of a 10-day dead period, but it was to resume July 22 when Amy, Tempie and assistant coach Kate Paye would set off on the recruiting trail. Tara would stay behind to oversee practices and the third and final hoops camp.

July 17 was also when Stanford announced that Hall of Famer Tara had signed a contract extension beyond her current contract, which runs through the 2014-15 season. Terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed.

The coaches and players will get some time off between the end of the summer quarter and the start of their Italian trip. They’ll get some more time off between the end of the trip and the start of the fall quarter. New undergraduates report to campus Sept. 17. Classes start Sept. 23.

Optimism for 2013-14

Amy said she wasn’t sure when the team’s 2013-14 schedule will be released. However, the coaches are optimistic about the upcoming season, which starts in November.

In the meantime, the summer “is all bonus time. Ten extra practices (for Italy) can only be helpful,” Amy said. “We feel like we’re ahead.”

The trip itself will give the players a chance to compete against someone other than themselves. It also gives them more opportunities to bond as a team, an intangible that’s important to a team’s success.

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