January 14, 2016

Fans watch practice, tour locker room

An estimated 350 fans, including season ticket holders and their guests, got a peek into the inner workings of the Stanford women’s basketball team during an open practice Jan. 13.

As the visitors entered Maples starting at 5:30 p.m., strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil was putting the team through warmups.

The team next went through layup drills at three baskets, followed by groups of five players doing fast break drills culminating mostly in layups or 3-point shots.

After a water break, five-on-five, red vs. white, scrimmages began, first in the half court, then full court.

The red team included four players who usually don’t get much time during games, plus a male practice player.

Head coach Tara VanDerveer explained later that red team players -- senior forward/center Tess Picknell, freshman forward/center Shannon Coffee, freshman guard Alexa Romano and redshirt senior guard Alex Green -- are the scout team, mimicking the plays of the next opponent, Oregon. “They run it amazing well,” Tara said, referring to the scout team’s running the opponent’s offense.

Classes keep Kiran, Bird away

Senior guard Kiran Lakhian is on the scout team, too, but she was absent because of a class conflict. Likewise, junior forward Erica “Bird” McCall had a class conflict that kept her from practicing with the other eight players on the white team.

White team players who weren’t on the floor practiced free throws on the sidelines.

Taking a break from scrimmages, the team paired off for free throws. Another scrimmage was followed by more free throws.

The final scrimmage saw Alex switching to the white team, while sophomore guard Brittany McPhee and junior guard Briana Roberson went to the red team.

Redecorated locker room stresses tradition

In the meantime, groups of fans toured the team’s redecorated locker room. The walls of the lounge area are adorned with action shots of past SWBB greats. One especially large photo shows Chiney Ogwumike, ’14, hugging Tara after a victory.

Other photos show Tara and associate head coach Amy Tucker cutting the nets after championships. (Amy wasn’t at the practice because she was on the road recruiting, one of her principal responsibilities. She would join the team in Oregon, Tara said.)

Also on the wall are lists of the team’s accomplishments over the years, such as the national championships, Final Fours and conference championships.

The new décor is meant to emphasize SWBB tradition, Tara said afterward. Returning players like it, she said, noting that Jeanette Pohlen, ’11, took a photo of her picture during a recent visit.

The final stop on the tour was the Arrillaga practice gym, used by the men’s and women’s basketball teams and the men’s and women’s volleyball teams, said tour guide Eileen Roche, director of women’s basketball operations.

Following scrimmages, the team ran sprints, put in more time at the free-throw line and finally met with Tara and the rest of the staff in a circle at center court. The players left the court shortly before 7:30 p.m.

Rigorous schedule

The players wouldn’t have much time to rest. They had to shower, dress, eat dinner and report back for a short practice the next day at 6:45 a.m. before traveling to Oregon.

Following the Oregon game on Jan. 15, there would be a day to prepare for and travel to Oregon State for a game on Jan. 17.

“This is a pretty typical practice,” Tara told the crowd as most of the team headed for the locker room although Bri, Brittany and freshman forward Alanna Smith put in some more free-throw time before leaving.

During the course of a week, the players watch videos of themselves on their iPads and view videos of previous games and their upcoming opponents’ games with the coaches. Assistant coaches Tempie Brown and Kate Paye share scouting duties and prepare scout reports for the team.

Tara cites progress

“We’re playing well defensively” and stressing an uptempo offensive strategy, Tara said, but the players “have to be able to run a half-court offense,” which she called only fair at this point.

Still, “I’m seeing great progress. … If we did everything well now, it would be boring.”

It would appear from this practice that every player works hard and that the players have good rapport and enjoy one another.

Finally, the coaches have two overarching goals for the team: first, stay healthy; second, improve, Tara concluded.

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