November 9, 2015

Potential on parade

The outcome of the Stanford women’s basketball team’s Nov. 7 exhibition game against Academy of Art University was expected. The Cardinal won 81-48.

Likewise, the 2,479 fans at the game got their expected look at the team’s first outing, albeit against a Division II school.

Most important, the coaches had a chance to see various individuals and combinations to start figuring out how to use their players’ talents.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer went with four returning players and one freshman to start the game, but that freshman, guard Marta Sniezek, played the all-important point position. Joining her on the floor were junior guards Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson along with sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson and junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall.

Everyone scores, led by Bird

By the end of the game, all 12 available women had played and scored. Bird led the way in both points and rebounds with 19 and 16, respectively, plus two blocks. Karlie was right behind her with 17 points, eight rebounds, two assists and one block.

Alanna had 12 points

Coming off the bench, freshman forward Alanna Smith chipped in 12 points, nine rebounds, one assist and two blocks.

Redshirt senior guard Alex Green, still recovering from an ACL injury, was unavailable. Also out of action was junior guard Lili Thompson, who had a boot on her right foot. Tara told a gathering in Kissick Auditorium after the game that Lili was held out as a precaution and that she hoped to have Lili back this week.

Maples gets new video board

Fans got their first look at the new, larger video board over center court. It displays a large image of the action along with a smaller space for the score, team fouls and time outs left.

Individual stats – points, fouls and rebounds – are shown on smaller screens in the corners. The southeast and northwest screens display Stanford’s numbers. Visitor numbers appear in the other corners.

These screens replace the championship banners. Instead, teams’ championship lists will be painted on the walls, Tara said. The banners won’t come back.

Fans who aren’t happy about the changes should send their thoughts to Eileen Roche, director of basketball operations, who will forward them to the right place, Tara said.

The band, Dollies and Tree were on hand to cheer the players as they ran onto the court, led by Marta.

Betty Ann (Boeving) Hagenau was back in the announcer’s seat after missing much of last season while recuperating from a bicycle accident.

Karlie and Lili are this year's captains

Karlie, Lili captain the team

The team sported a new look with red sleeveless warmup jerseys. As team captains, Karlie and Lili met with the referees and AAU’s captains at center court before the game.

Bri scored Stanford’s first basket after the team had turned the ball over twice. She was replaced by sophomore guard Brittany McPhee at the 7:50 mark and the score tied 5-5.

Brittany’s minutes were limited because she had been ill during the week, Tara said later.
Nevertheless, she made one of the team’s six 3-pointers. The others came from Karlie with three, while Bri and senior guard Kiran Lakhian had one each.

Next in was junior forward Kailee Johnson for Bird at the 5:23 mark.

The first quarter ended with Stanford ahead 30-18. During that quarter, it appeared that getting the ball to Bird under the basket was a priority.

Getting the starting nod for the second quarter was freshman guard Alexa Romano along with Karlie, Kailee, Bri and Alanna. By the end of that quarter, which ended 51-25, everyone had played except for freshman forward/center Shannon Coffee. She hadn’t scrimmaged in the team’s open practice last month, when Tara said that she had a sore foot.

The third quarter began with the initial starting lineup and ended with the Cardinal up 65-36.

Veterans on the bench cheer for the freshmen 

Freshmen play most of 4th quarter

With the veterans cheering from the bench, much of the fourth quarter featured all four freshmen plus Kiran, who rejoined the team this season after playing her freshman year. “Kiran is very determined,” Tara said after the game. “She wanted to play.”

The lineup shifted slightly throughout the quarter, but ended with the freshmen plus senior forward/center Tess Picknell.

The post-game session began with Eileen talking about the team’s earlier closed scrimmage against the visiting University of Texas at El Paso. The session gave the teams experience with new rules and a chance to run through agreed-upon situations for a half-hour, she said.

Most significant among the new rules are four quarters instead of two halves. Two shots replace one-and-one free-throw shooting.

If there’s less than one minute left in the game, the team that gains possession can take a time out, and then, if it informs the refs, advance the ball from in front of its bench instead of the far end.

Fans meet Marta, Shannon

In keeping with tradition, associate head coach Amy Tucker joined the post-game session to introduce Marta and Shannon.

Marta was the starting point guard

Marta scored 2 points but had seven rebounds, four assists and one steal in 23 minutes.  Shannon had 2 points along with two rebounds and one block in six minutes.

Marta, who comes from Washington, D.C., has eight siblings. She’s the second youngest. She attended a private girls high school, National Cathedral, the alma mater of Grace Mashore, ’12. She started playing AAU basketball at age 8.

When asked why she chose Stanford, she answered, “Why not?” She had other offers, but with academics a high priority, she narrowed her choices to Stanford, Harvard and Princeton. When she visited Stanford, though, she “fell in love with the school.”

Now that she’s with the team, she’s finding the pace to be the biggest adjustment. She also hadn’t done any weight lifting – a big part of the players’ conditioning – before this.

Although she doesn’t have to declare a major until her junior year, she’s interested in science and math and is taking a chemistry class this quarter.

In addition to basketball, she played soccer, earning all-American and D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year honors.

Shannon goes in for a layup

Shannon graduated from a large public high school, Centerville, near Dayton, Ohio. She has a sister who graduated from Ohio State and a brother who goes there.

She initially wanted to go to school closer to home, but like Marta, she said, “Why not come here?” It may have helped that her great-uncle had coached Mikaela Ruef, ’14, who talked to her about Stanford.

She started basketball with CYO in kindergarten followed by AAU in third grade.

She agreed with Marta about the faster pace of college ball. Academically, she’s interested in hospital administration.

Both Amy and Tara praised Marta. She “does a tremendous job of pushing the ball in transition,” Amy said. “Marta has had phenomenal practices,” Tara said. She’s “an extremely intelligent point guard.”

Tara pleased with freshmen

“We’re really excited about our four freshmen,” Tara said, noting that Shannon and Marta like to pass, while Alanna and Alexa like to shoot.

Alanna, the team’s first Australian, has adjusted well, Tara said. She has been ill and has had some homesickness, but the older players are helping her adjust. “She’s going to be a really great player for us.”

“We have a great group,” but “we’re going to have to improve a lot quickly.” The team had 18 turnovers compared with the Urban Knights’ nine. On the plus side, the players get along well and care for each other.

Strategy-wise, “we’re definitely looking to run … We’re real excited about this year’s team,” Tara concluded.

All photos from Stanford women's basketball

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