April 18, 2015

Players take on a different look

Those tall, glamorous young women at the Stanford alumni center were women’s basketball players attending the annual spring banquet April 15.

Some people had to look twice to recognize them with their fashionable dresses, nicely styled hair and, in some cases, high heels, like the stilettos worn by senior guard Jasmine Camp.

All photos by Dave Cortesi

Two hundred people enjoyed the buffet dinner and the chance to socialize with the players, fans, coaches and staff members. The event was planned and coordinated by DeeDee Zawaydeh, longtime administrative assistant and emcee for the evening.

The main part of the program featured head coach Tara VanDerveer introducing each player by academic class and handing out thanks to the dozens of people behind the team and mostly behind the scenes. It made one realize how many people are needed to build and support an outstanding team.

Young fan had serenaded team

Tara began by introducing one of the team’s youngest fans, 4 ½-year-old TJ Louie. TJ had been so taken with the team that he wrote a song that named every player and sang it to the team one day in the locker room.

He was seated with his favorite player, junior forward/center Tess Picknell, and his grandmother, Marianne Austin. He was wearing a red T-shirt with a picture of the team on the front and all the players’ names on the back.

The coach called the just-concluded season “a great year, a very different year” with a different offense, varying starting lineups and nine different players as game-high scorers.

Freshmen are first for praise

She then called the players to the front for praise, starting with the three freshmen:
Guard Taylor Rooks, who has “a positive attitude.”
Guard Brittany McPhee, who was the team’s best free-throw shooter and “loves the game of basketball.”
Forward Kaylee Johnson, who was the team’s best rebounder and shot blocker and who set the Pac-12 freshman rebounding record previously held by some Stanford greats.

Sophomores, junior come forward

After more thanks, the sophomores went to the front for Tara’s kudos:

Guard Lili Thompson, who is “an outstanding player with glimpses of brilliance.”
    Guard Karlie Samuelson, who is “one of the most intelligent basketball players I’ve ever coached” and who is a “fearless competitor.”
               Guard Briana Roberson, who went “from a practice player to a gamer” and who “gives the team speed and quickness.”
               Forward Erica “Bird” McCall, who was the team’s second-leading rebounding and shot blocker, who is a “leader by example” and whom “I love coaching.”
               Forward Kailee Johnson, who had a tough start because of injuries but who is intelligent and versatile. 
Karlie, who broke her right pinky finger before the start of the Pac-12 tournament, was wearing a device to immobilize it and the adjacent finger after starting off with a cast and a sling and then just a cast.

Next came Tess, the team’s lone academic junior. “Tess is one of my favorite players” and contributes to the practice and scouting teams, Tara said.

Seniors are thanked, give thanks

Finally, it was the seniors’ turn. The group that had started as what was termed the six-pack four years ago was down to just five at the banquet.

Missing was guard Amber Orrange. Having completed the course work for her degree, she’d had to move out of her dorm just a few days before, so she returned home to Houston to await the outcome of the next day’s WNBA draft. (Amber was drafted by the New York Liberty as the overall 23rd pick.) “We wish her well,” Tara said.

Among the accomplishments of the class of 2015 was a 127-19 overall record and a 59-5 record at home in Maples Pavilion.

Tara called Jasmine “nurturing, unselfish and dedicated, … a quintessential teammate.” In the program, which includes the other players’ salutes to the seniors, several referred to Jasmine as the team mom. Jasmine has another year of eligibility, but has decided to move on to graduate school or a job.

Like all of her classmates, Jasmine thanked everyone for their support, adding, “This has been so special for all of us.”

Alex to return for final year of eligibility

Guard Alex Green also has another year of eligibility and will return. She was on crutches and wearing a heavy brace. 

She tore an ACL in practice a week before the start of the NCAA tournament and had recently undergone surgery. This was the second ACL tear for her, but a different knee. She “worked really hard all season,” Tara said.

Referring to forward Taylor Greenfield, Tara said that Taylor had had some good games in the past, but “this year’s Pac-12 tournament took the cake,” resulting in her being named its Most Outstanding Player.

Taylor, who is from Huxley, Iowa, noted that “coming to Stanford all the way from Iowa wasn’t easy,” but her mother supported the move. She thanked associate head coach Amy Tucker for going to Iowa, despite its wintry weather, to see her play during the recruiting process. “This has been a special four years,” she said.

Erica to work in San Francisco

Forward Erica Payne, who already has a job lined up, is a “very high energy, positive person,” Tara said. Erica will work as a consultant for Deloitte in San Francisco after graduation.

She thanked the coaches for the “opportunity to go to one of the best schools in the country.” And she thanked the fans, who “always made me feel like a starter.”

Tara noted that with the change in offensive strategy, forward Bonnie Samuelson was moved from the 3 position to the stretch 4. One of the program’s all-time best 3-point shooters, she had 81 treys this season. Her 237 career 3’s trail only Candice Wiggins, ’08, and Jeanette Pohlen, ’11. Bonnie plans to go to medical school and become a doctor.

Speaking of her sister, Bonnie said, “Karlie’s always there to put me in my place.” As for her teammates, “You’re my sisters through life.”

Jasmine, Taylor, Erica and Bonnie got to take home their framed jerseys displayed behind the podium. Presumably Amber already has hers, and Alex will get hers next year.

Next came a video that highlighted each player’s performances and accomplishments as well as video recaps of the season.

Tara closed the evening by saying, “Tomorrow we look forward to next year.” She named the four incoming freshmen and said, “Great players are made in the offseason.”

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