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January 23, 2013Stanford forward John Gage is best known for his long range shooting. Though he's listed as a forward/center by Stanford, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound junior does his most effective work outside of the three-point line.
Most recently, Gage's scored 14 points on 4-4 shooting from three-point range in the Card's win over Cal. It wasn't an anomaly. Gage has made 43.5 percent of his three-point attempts this season.
But interestingly enough, Gage wasn't a great three-point shooter in high school, according to Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins.
"He didn't take many threes at all," Dawkins said. "I thought he had the capability of being a really good three point shooter. You just didn't know how long it would take. You look at him shoot the basketball; he's a pure stroke. It's just a matter of increasing his range."
Now, Stanford wants Gage to expand his game in the other direction.
"His ability to score inside was something he was capable of doing," Dawkins said. "It's something he's capable of doing at our level. Sometimes he'll spot up (from three-point range) faster than he'll go in there and shoot the ball inside. I'm always giving him a hard time about balancing that out because I think he's a capable inside scorer as well."
Gage has been working closely with new Stanford assistant coach Mark Madsen to improve his post play.
"Teams put their smaller guys on me and think they can get away with it," Gage said. "By helping my team I need to get in the post and take advantage of that mismatch. Right now that's what I've been working on the most and just getting stronger as well.
"(I've been doing) a lot of work with Coach Madsen. Jump hooks, fadeaways. I'm trying to keep it really simple, but in order to do that I have to get my footwork down."
Dawkins said that Madsen's addition to the coaching staff has worked according to plan.
"Mark's done a terrific job with our guys," Dawkins said. "He's been great with our big guys as far as teaching them some of the nuances of the game - how to play in the low post, when you've facing up, some of the things you need to think about. He's been a great addition. We've happy we have him."
Freshmen update: Though he didn't receive much playing time at the beginning of the season, Rosco Allen has forced himself into Stanford's rotation with his recent play.
"Rosco Allen has grown a lot this year," Gage said. "He comes in, he wasn't as strong, but over time he's learned to really do what he does best. He's a great cutter. He's starting to hit some shots. To be honest, he's a very good shooter as he's shown in practice. He's yet to show it as much in games, but he's a very good shooter and that will come around too. He's really grown. He's grown a lot defensively as well. I love to see that growth and he's going to be a great player some day."
Conversely, Christian Sanders' has seen his playing time decrease over the past few games, coinciding with the solid play of senior guard Gabe Harris. However, Dawkins' said Sanders' lack playing time isn't an indictment of his game, but rather the consequence of finding a stable playing rotation.
"He's practicing hard, practicing well," Dawkins said. "I'm sure if the opportunity presented itself we'll play him. Right now the guys that we've played have given us good contributions.
"It's nothing other than we liked the rotations we had out there. We wanted to stick with it."
As for the Card's third freshman, Grant Verhoeven?
"He's working hard also," Dawkins said. "I think he's getting better, that's for sure. Watching him as a player in the offensive end, I see the improvements he's making, which we're excited about. I think he's going to be a big contributor for us in the future."
Randle rounding into form: While the progress of Stanford's first-year players is worth noting, the 2012-2013 Cardinal will likely only go as far as their frontline players -- Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle among them -- carry the team.
Powell has been Stanford's best player all year, but after slow start, Randle is starting to show flashes that he, too, is on the verge of recapturing the form that made him one of the best freshmen in the country last year.
"They've started to develop really good chemistry," Dawkins said. "That's something we've looked for with this group. I think our team has started to develop more chemistry. Those two kids have been two of our catalysts. Chasson, for the last 4 games, has been playing some good basketball. He's kind of getting back to the Chasson we remember. And Dwight's had a very good season. He's been probably our most dependable player all year."
Added Dawkins: "Dwight is probably the most unselfish really good player I've ever been around. He's as willing to have two points as have 30. He just wants his team to win. I love that about him. But there are times where you need him to go out there and do as much damage to the opposing team as possible with his offensive skill package."