October 21, 2013

First taste of what’s to come

Fans of Stanford women’s basketball got a preview of the team at an open practice Oct. 19, Homecoming Day.

The event was advertised for 9:30-11:30 a.m., but practice was already under way when I arrived at 9:15. Joined by three male practice players, the team was involved in half-court scrimmages. During that time, junior guard Amber Orrange had several nice assists to senior forward Chiney Ogwumike.

R/s sophomore guard Alex Green scored several times, as did Amber and r/s sophomore guard Jasmine Camp. Senior guard Sara James had at least two 3’s, while freshman guard/forward Karlie Samuelson had one.

While their teammates practiced, four players were on the north end of the court working out with strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil. They were junior forwards Bonnie Samuelson and Erica Payne along with freshman guards Briana Roberson and Lili Thompson.

Senior Toni Kokenis sat on the bench, encouraging her teammates. The guard recently took medical retirement after several concussions, but she remains with the team.

In the meantime, Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations, passed out rosters that included a pronunciation guide for some of the names.

Practice gets into game mode

After the half-court scrimmages, practice became a full-court, 40-minute, two-half game with three referees. Assistant coach Tempie Brown coached the red team, which included the three men along with Alex, junior forward Taylor Greenfield and sophomore forward/center Tess Picknell.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer, associate head coach Amy Tucker and assistant coach Kate Paye coached the white team. Starters for that team were fifth-year senior forward Mikaela Ruef, Chiney, Jasmine, Amber and Karlie, but there was liberal substitution throughout the game. In addition, some of the women were switched to the opposing team during the game.

My very unofficial scorekeeping shows Chiney leading the scoring with 32 or 33 points. She didn’t seem to be the primary offensive focus during the first half, but the ball wound up in her hands and into the basket a lot more in the second half.

Freshman forward Kailee Johnson had 12 points, followed by freshman forward Erica McCall with 11. Taylor and Sara each had 10. Tess had 8, Amber 7, Karlie 6, Alex 6 Mikaela 5 and Jasmine 3.

Three-pointers – again unofficial -- came from Sara with three, from Alex and Taylor with two each and from Jasmine, Kailee and Amber with one each.

The new rule allowing only 10 seconds to get the ball across the center line didn’t seem to be a problem thanks to speedy point play by Amber, Alex and Jasmine. The two teams also had some nifty fast breaks.

Alumnae observe practice

While the players were practicing, several alumnae watched from the sidelines. They included Nneka Ogwumike, ’12; Ashley Cimino, Hannah Donaghe and Jeanette Pohlen, all ’11; Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, ’10; and Morgan Clyburn, ’09. Also with these more recent grads was Kerry Blake, ’11, who was the team manager for four years.

Thanks to Marian Cortesi, who took a magnifying glass to her photos to read name tags, alums from earlier years included Mary McCready,’75; Meg Metzger, ’83; Emily Wagner Gallagher,’89, Jeanne Osmera Lowell, ’89; Ann Adkins Enthoven, ’92; and Bethany Donaphin, ’02. And of course Kate is a Stanford grad, class of 1995.

The alums joined the team and staff at a post-game circle. Tara asked the grads to introduce themselves. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be heard in the stands.

After that, it was photo time.

Although it’s far too early to make any definitive judgments, especially since two veteran players and two of the five freshmen were sidelined, it does appear that the team has good depth.

Chiney is the undisputed leader, and the other three returning starters – Mikaela, Sara and Amber – look to be in fine form.

Fans will have a better chance to become acquainted with the team at 2 p.m. Nov. 3 when Vanguard visits for an exhibition game. The game will be followed by a behind-the-bench session.

Homecoming festivities

While the team was practicing in Maples Pavilion, band music was sounding from an adjacent playing field. That’s where several hundred alums of the Stanford band were rehearsing their halftime show paying tribute to the 50th anniversary of the band as we know it today. Also on hand were dozens of present and past Dollies and even some past Trees.

After practice, areas near the stadium were abuzz with tailgates and other gatherings prior to the marquee weekend event: the football game against UCLA, which the Cardinal won 24-10 on a picture-perfect autumn day.