November 19, 2013

Tara enthusiastic about freshmen

Head coach Tara VanDerveer is apparently more than just pleased with the five freshmen on the Stanford women’s basketball team.

“All of our freshmen are spectacular,” Tara told fans after the team’s 66-48 home victory over UC Davis on Nov. 17. “They’re really fabulous young players.”

Nevertheless, they’re still adapting to collegiate basketball, especially as it’s played at Stanford. “We’re not running a lot of plays” because there are so many young players. “They have to learn the system and study scouting reports,” Tara said.

Even as the team evolves, at least two of the newcomers are happy to be at Stanford. Freshman forwards Erica McCall and Kailee Johnson both had a chance to speak to fans at the Behind the Bench session, and both were enthusiastic.

“I love it here so far,” said Kailee, who comes from Portland, Ore. Although it’s too early to decide on a major, she said she’s interested in business and might major in science, technology and society.

“All the freshmen have bonded,” said Erica, who hails from Bakersfield, where her father, Greg, is coach of the CSU Bakersfield women’s basketball team. He was at the game. Her older sister, DeWanna Bonner, is on the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and is playing in Russia during the offseason.

Both freshmen mentioned how much they value the mentoring of the older players.

Unlike past overseas trips, this year the freshmen could join the team on its summer trip to Italy. “The food was amazing,” and the team got “to play with the best players in the world,” said Erica, who is leaning toward psychology or sociology as a major.

Two freshmen start

Erica was part of the starting lineup for the first time, joining freshman guard Lili Thompson along with senior forward Chiney Ogwumike, redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef and junior point guard Amber Orrange.

Playing for 17 minutes, Erica had 5 points and six rebounds. Lili had 2 points and a rebound in 18 minutes. Kailee came off the bench for 13 minutes and had two rebounds.

Also coming off the bench was freshman guard Karlie Samuelson, who played 33 minutes, tying with Chiney for the second-most minutes. During her time on the court, she scored 8 points and had four rebounds.

The other freshman, Briana Roberson, was in street clothes, along with junior forwards Taylor Greenfield and Erica Payne.

“We’re really excited about how our young players are doing,” Tara said after the game, adding that “our older players are getting healthy.”

She had extra praise for Lili, who “is having an outstanding beginning to her career,” and for Karlie, who “played like a senior out there today.”

Chiney records another double-double

As usual, Chiney led all players with 28 points and 15 rebounds. Amber was next in scoring with 10 points and four rebounds in a team-high 38 minutes.

Playing 22 minutes, Mikaela contributed 8 points and eight rebounds. Less than five minutes into the game, though, she hobbled off the court. She went to the locker room and returned to action several minutes later with her ankle taped.

One apparent concern overall is that the team made only 13 of 24 free throws, or 54.2 percent. “I’m really disappointed with our free-throw percentage,” Tara said. She added that the team is working on rebounding missed free throws.

Three-point shooting was deficient, too, only three of 17, or 17.6 percent. Karlie had two and her older sister, junior forward Bonnie Samuelson, had one.

On the other hand, 3-pointers helped to keep UC Davis in the game. The Aggies’ eight 3’s accounted for half of their final score.

“Kudos to Davis,” Tara said, saying that the team does a good job and that it runs the Princeton offense well.

Team to take to the road

It will be nearly a month before the Cardinal return to Maples. At 6 a.m. Nov. 22 the team will depart for its game against Texas on Nov. 23, said Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations.

After that game, the team will fly to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for the Hardwood Tournament of Hope and successive games against Purdue, Florida Gulf Coast and South Dakota State from Nov. 26-28.

Then it’s back to campus and preparations for the end of the term before facing Gonzaga at home on Dec. 14.

In the meantime, Eileen is trying to gauge interest in a booster bus to the Cal game on Feb. 2. She has reserved a bus and wants fans to e-mail her at by the end of November. Otherwise, she’ll release it, she said.

November 17, 2013

It’s home sweet home for the Cardinal

Even though it might have looked that way on paper, the Stanford women’s basketball team’s 86-51 home victory over Cal Poly on Nov. 15 was more than just the Chiney Ogwumike show.

The senior forward scored a career-high 36 points in 30 minutes, plus 11 rebounds for her 61st career double-double. However, she had plenty of help along the way with 10 of the 12 available players adding to the total.

After returning to the bench for good with 6:28 to go in the second half, Chiney still wasn’t quite done. As redshirt sophomore guard Alex Green stood in front of the bench to inbound the ball, Chiney gave her some last-minute instructions.

Redshirt senior forward Mikaela Ruef was second in points scored with 9. However, her biggest contributions came from other stats, such as her career-high and team-high 14 rebounds. She was a regular rebounding machine. She added a team-high seven assists, most of them on nifty passes to Chiney. She also had one of the team’s five steals in her 27 minutes.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer reconfigured the starting lineup slightly, inserting freshman guard Lili Thompson in place of Alex, who had started the two previous games.

Otherwise, Tara stuck with the rest of her starters: Chiney, Mikaela, junior point guard Amber Orrange and freshman forward Kailee Johnson. Chiney, Mikaela and senior guard Sara James were the captains.

Junior forwards Taylor Greenfield and Erica Payne along with freshman guard Briana Roberson were on the bench in street clothes.

Also unavailable were the band, Tree, cheerleaders and Dollies. Perhaps they were at the soccer field to support the women’s soccer team, which had the same start time for its first round of the NCAA tournament. The Cardinal won the match 1-0.

The WBB game started slowly and sloppily with an unusual number of Cardinal turnovers, some of them caused by Cal Poly’s alert defense. The home team had 11 turnovers in the first half but only four in the second.

The visitors outscored their hosts for about the first five minutes of the game. During that time, Chiney did most of the Stanford scoring. For example, at the 10:30 mark, when Stanford trailed 13-11, she had 9 points.

After that, though, the Cardinal began showing more cohesion and amassed a 23-15 lead with 7:39 to go in the half. The lead was 41-25 at halftime. By then, all available players had seen action.

During the first half, the women’s swimming and diving team was introduced. The team won the 2013 Pac 12 championship and ranks No. 4 nationally. In return for the crowd’s recognition, the women tossed mini-balls into the stands.

It was victory balls flying into the stands at the end of the game as the WBB team celebrated success in its first home game of the season and upped its record to 2-1.

Excluding the slow start, it was an all-around win for the team as it outrebounded Cal Poly 47-36 and scored more points in the paint, 46-22.

Bench players added 22 points to the final score, led by freshman forward Erica McCall with 8 for third on the team. Freshman forward/guard Karlie Samuelson chipped in with 6 thanks to two 3-pointers.

Threes also came from Kailee, Lili and junior forward Bonnie Samuelson, all with one each, for a team total of five.

In her post-game comments to the press, Tara said she’s still shopping “for players who are going to step up and make plays.”

She probably hasn’t hit on the perfect combination yet, especially with Taylor and Erica P. still out. However, she does have a good selection, especially as the five freshmen mesh more completely and as the team develops its on-court chemistry.

There were signs of both in this game with some nicely executed plays and fast breaks that had the crowd cheering.

November 5, 2013

Exhibition victory bodes well for season

Even though it had only 10 players for its 79-47 exhibition victory over Vanguard on Nov. 3, the Stanford women’s basketball team offered some tantalizing hints at what might lie ahead for the 2013-14 season.

The team lacked the services of freshman guard Briana Roberson and four upperclassmen – senior guard Sara James along with junior forwards Taylor Greenfield, Erica Payne and Bonnie Samuelson.

Sara was a starter toward the end of last season. In her place, head coach Tara VanDerveer inserted redshirt sophomore guard Alex Green into the starting lineup along with the other three returning starters: senior forward Chiney Ogwumike, fifth-year senior forward Mikaela Ruef and junior point guard Amber Orrange. They were joined by freshman forward Kailee Johnson. Chiney and Mikaela are this year’s co-captains.

Freshman guard Karlie Samuelson was first off the bench, followed by freshman forward Erica McCall, freshman guard Lili Thompson, redshirt sophomore guard Jasmine Camp and sophomore forward/center Tess Picknell.

Everyone scored and rebounded, but Chiney led the way with 27 points and 15 rebounds in 21 minutes. Her contributions were nearly equaled by Kailee and Erica M., who teamed up to score 27 points (13 and 14, respectively) and to snare 13 rebounds (nine and four, respectively).

No one else scored in double figures, but Mikaela had nine rebounds and two assists, including a nif play when a streaking Chiney passed the ball to her, and she in turn tipped it directly back to Chiney for the score. Amber had a team-high six assists.

Starters get to relax

At the half, the score was 41-21 in the Cardinal’s favor.

Therefore, Chiney returned to the bench for good with 14:57 to go in the second half. The other starters soon followed, leaving the game in the able hands of Erica M., Lili, Tess, Jasmine and Karlie.

An exhibition game doesn’t count toward season records. Nevertheless, I would guess that more than 1,000 fans were on hand at Maples on a lovely fall afternoon, the first day of Standard Time. They got to see the new signs adorning the hallways.

Somewhat unusual for an exhibition is that the band, cheerleaders, Dollies and Tree were there to support the team. That often doesn’t occur until season games start.

Defense takes advantage of new rule

Statistically, one encouraging sign was that the team committed only three turnovers, while Vanguard had 14. Some of Vanguard’s turnovers were the result of a pesky Stanford defense that led to shot clock violations and failures to cross the center line in the required 10 seconds. The latter rule is new this year.

Stanford started the game with intense pressure in the back court when Vanguard had the ball, forcing it to take time out at the 19:03 point. The pressure later led to a turnover, but Stanford didn’t apply much full-court pressure thereafter.

Still, the defense was stalwart with both Kailee and Tess recording a block. The team had five steals, including two by Lili and one each by Chiney, Amber and Jasmine.

Karlie showed that she shares older sister Bonnie’s penchant for shooting 3-pointers. Only one of her nine attempts was successful, coming at 9:26 in the second half, but many came close. One assumes that more will find their mark once she becomes more comfortable with the pace of college play. Kailee hit on one of her 3-point tries.

Talking with fans during the Behind the Bench after the game, Tara said, “We’re really excited about our team, and I think you see why.”

Tara introduces players

She then introduced the entire team, starting with the five freshmen:

Kailee: “She’s going to be great addition.”
Karlie: “She does a lot for us.”
Lili: “She has shown us some great things.” Tara added her parents, who were at the game, had recently moved to California from Texas.
Erica M.: “She really helps us inside. She’s a warrior.”
Briana: “She’s really close to playing” the 1 or 2 spot.

Tara praised the team’s “great upperclassmen who are great leaders,” starting with the seniors:

Chiney: “What a tremendous player Chiney is.”
Sara: She has been rehabbing.
Mikaela: She’s getting her master’s degree in engineering. She’s also “much more of an offensive weapon this year.”

Tara also introduced senior Toni Kokenis, the guard who took medical retirement because of concussions but who remains with the team. “Toni helps our young players,” the coach said.

She called Tess “one of our most improved players. She’s making really nice plays.”

Amber “plays really hard” and is a great defender, but she’s able to get more rest thanks to the emergence of strong backups at the point.

One of those backups is Jasmine, who’s “playing great defense.”

Bonnie is close to returning to action. Erica P. is a “vocal leader, a real high energy player.” Although she hasn’t been cleared to play, she has been working on her shot and helping the freshmen.

Taylor, who was wearing a boot, “had a little bit of a setback.” When she does practice, “she does a great job of getting the ball inside.”

Alex, who missed all of her freshman year and part of her sophomore year with injuries, has “worked really, really hard,” thus adding “more depth and athleticism” to the corps of guards.

Coaches get a nod

Tara also introduced the returning coaches – associate head coach Amy Tucker and assistant coach Kate Paye – along with new assistant coach Tempie Brown, who was formerly at Michigan State University. She “adds a lot to our program.”

Tempie replaces Trina Patterson, who left the Farm after two years to coach at Old Dominion University in Virginia, her home state, where she has an ill parent.

Also new to the staff is strength and conditioning coach, Brittany Keil. “She picks up where Susan left off,” Tara said, referring to Susan Borchardt, now working for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.

“This is going to be a great season,” Tara said. “This has been a great team to work with,” but “there are things we can do better.”

“We’re playing a tremendous schedule. We are looking forward to a fabulous season.”

After the relative ease of this home exhibition game, things get tough right away. The team travels east to face Boston College at 10 a.m. Saturday followed by defending national champion and perennial powerhouse UConn at 4 p.m. Monday. The latter game will be televised on ESPN2.