Photos by Dave Cortesi
More than 100 fans of Stanford women’s basketball got their first look at the latest edition of the team during an open practice Oct. 24.
It wasn’t so much a chance to assess the team as it was a chance to become acquainted with the four freshmen and reacquainted with the nine returning players. It also was a chance to hear some of head coach Tara VanDerveer’s views of the team.
During the approximately 90 minutes open to fans, the team primarily scrimmaged with white jerseys coached by Tara and red jerseys joined by two male practice players and coached by assistant coach Tempie Brown. Associate head coach Amy Tucker and assistant coach Kate Paye served as observers and referees.
Karlie, Anna sidelined
Senior guard Karlie Samuelson, sporting a red cast on her left wrist, took part only in non-contact drills. Otherwise, she mostly worked on perfecting her 3-point shot while strength and conditioning coach Brittany Keil rebounded for her.
Freshman guard Anna Wilson also stayed on the sidelines, working on some of her shots. Anna is recovering from a concussion suffered in the spring.
Some general impressions are that the team played with high energy and worked hard on both offense and defense. Shooting wasn’t so great, and there were turnovers, but one can expect improvement in both areas.
Again, although it’s far too early for definitive judgments, fans were impressed with the hustle shown by freshman guard DiJonai Carrington. Senior forward Erica “Bird” McCall and several other returnees appeared to be picking up right where they left off so well last season.
Tara introduces players
After the practice, Tara briefly introduced each player before excusing the team to head for the showers and dinner.
She started with the freshmen, noting that fans can expect to see Anna in action soon. She said that “we’re really excited” about DiJonai, who’s “off to a great start.”
Freshman guard Mikaela Brewer, the team’s first Canadian, played for her country’s U18 team this past summer. Forward Nadia Fingall, like the other freshmen, is “doing a phenomenal job,” Tara said.
Moving on to the sophomores, Tara said that center Shannon Coffee is a smart player who’s doing well. Guard Alexa Romano had the honor of going to India during the summer. Forward Alanna Smith, the Australian who was the team’s first international player, is “off to a tremendous start.” Point guard Marta Sniezek is an “even better sophomore” than she was as a freshman.
The team has only two juniors: guard Brittany McPhee, who’s working hard and is “in great shape,” and forward Kaylee Johnson, who is versatile and “a great vocal leader.”
Concluding with the seniors, Tara said that guard Briana Roberson is “working hard on her shot,” earning the nickname “Big Shot Bri.” Karlie, who was due to have her cast removed the following day, is “a hungry player.” As for Bird, she’s “a special player,” who’s expected to improve even more this year than last.
Tara pleased with freshmen, team overall
After the players had left, Tara answered questions. “I’m absolutely thrilled with how well the freshmen are doing,” she said. Mentored by the returning players, they “will make major contributions.”
As for the Pac-12, “it’s always been competitive,” but “I have a lot of confidence in our team.”
Reflecting on the Los Angeles Sparks’ recent WNBA championship, Tara said, “We’re so excited for Nneka.” She was referring to Nneka Ogwumike, ’12, the league MVP who made the last-second basket that defeated the Minnesota Lynx by one point and gave the Sparks the championship.
Her overall assessments of the team: “Everyone is working to be the best player she can be.” The coaches are experimenting with defense, but for now, “a lot of our focus is on fundamentals.” Nevertheless, “we’re way ahead of where we were last year,” perhaps as much as a month, she concluded.
The team’s first competition will be an exhibition against UC San Diego, coached by Tara’s sister Heidi, at 6 p.m. Nov. 4.
The regular season opener is at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 against Cal Poly. Both are at home.