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.

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