October 19, 2014

Preliminary preview of the new team

More than 100 fans of Stanford women’s basketball got their first peek at the 2014-15 edition of the team during an open practice Oct. 17.

With all 15 players in uniform, practice was already under way as fans began arriving at the announced 5 p.m. start time. Most of the players were going through various offensive and defensive plays with no shooting.

As drills continued, sophomore guard Karlie Samuelson was at the opposite basket shooting and making one 3-pointer after another before switching to free throws with equal accuracy.

In the meantime, her sister, senior forward Bonnie Samuelson was pedaling a bike on the sidelines or taking some practice shots. Head coach Tara VanDerveer said later that Bonnie was a bit under the weather.

Male practice players help out

Soon the four male practice players, coached by assistant coach Tempie Brown and alternately joined by junior center/forward Tess Picknell, sophomore forward Erica “Bird” McCall and senior forward Erica Payne, became involved.

When the men went up against the women in full-court scrimmages, starters for the women were senior guard Amber Orrange, sophomore guard Lili Thompson, senior forward Taylor Greenfield, sophomore forward Kailee Johnson and Bird.

They appear to be likely candidates for starting in the season. However, the availability of Bonnie and Karlie, as well as freshman guard Brittany McPhee, might change the picture. Moreover, frequent substitutions altered the lineup during practice.

During this time, several players, especially Taylor, were impressive from the 3-point line.

With the advent of some non-contact drills, Karlie joined in while Bonnie and Brittany observed. The final minutes of practice were devoted to free throws.

Although the players remained serious and focused throughout the practice, their spirits and teamwork seemed high.

Tara introduces players

Tara then gathered the entire team and staff at center court for a few final words. They serenaded trainer Marcella Shorty with “Happy Birthday.”

The Behind the Bench session was short as Tara introduced each player, starting with the three freshmen. “We’re very excited about them,” Tara said, adding that the upperclassmen have been helpful to them.

Besides Brittany, who hails from Washington, the freshmen are guard Taylor Rooks from New Jersey and forward Kaylee Johnson from Wyoming. Tara noted that Kaylee is only the team’s second player from that state and asked fans if they know the first. Many remembered that she was Kristen Newlin, ’07, who plays professionally in Turkey.

In addition to Karlie, Lili, Kailee and Bird, the other sophomore is guard Briana Roberson. Tess is the only junior.

The senior roster includes Amber, Bonnie, Erica, Taylor and guards Alex Green and Jasmine Camp. Alex and Jasmine are redshirts, making them potentially available for another year after this.

After this quick introduction, Tara excused the players, noting that they were to return to practice at 10 a.m. the next day.

Newcomers welcomed

Finally, she introduced the staff, starting with the coaches: associate head coach Amy Tucker, assistant coach Kate Paye and Tempie.

The staff has two newcomers -- Evan Unrau, special assistant to Tara; and Hana Potter, intern. In addition, John Cantalupi, sports information director; Shelley Heward, manager of fan experience and community relations; are new to Stanford and will be promoting the team.

Returning to the staff are Brittany Keil, sports performance coach; Lauren Greif, video coordinator; Marcella; Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations; and Allison Perry, team manager.

It’s too early to predict how this team and individual players will fare during the season. Certainly things will be much different. There’s no apparent superstar on the roster after a succession of great players, most recently Chiney Ogwumike, ’14; and her sister, Nneka, ’12. Both are enjoying great success in their professional basketball careers.

Perhaps a clearer picture will begin to emerge with the exhibition games at home against Vanguard on Nov. 2 and UC San Diego on Nov. 8, both at 2 p.m. The regular season starts at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 14 when the Cardinal host Boston College.