Jenna Brown will be tough to stop during her freshman season
For the second straight year Stanford will look for a spark from a dynamic freshman guard. Jenna Brown (Marietta, Georgia) earned a five star rating and No. 18 overall ranking by the end of her high school career and since arriving at The Farm she has held up to those lofty expectations.
Stanford’s coaches and players can’t help but smile when asked about Brown. It's a similar response to this time last year when they talked about then freshman Kiana Williams. The Texan was a finalist for conference freshman of the year and averaged 10.4 points per game, 1.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists.
“Jenna is doing great,” said associate head coach Kate Paye. “She has a big, strong body. She is very physical at the point guard position. Her shot is looking good. She is penetrating well and people, quite honestly, just bounce off her. She makes nice pitches out.
“She is very serious about the game and it’s very important to her. She’s very competitive. She’s going to assume a larger role as the season goes on.”
Head coach Tara VanDerveer is impressed with the readiness of all three freshmen (Brown and twins Lexie and Lacie Hull) and the Hall of Fame coach is well known for how tough she is on her point guards.
The good news for Brown is that she can lean on Williams and senior Marta Sniezek, who spent last year helping each other navigate changes to the offense en route to a Sweet 16 run.
“Oh man, Jenna is going to be a fantastic player,” Williams said before a recent practice. “I’m excited for her first year. She is so smart. She has a really high basketball IQ. She’s a hard worker and loves the game. I’m really excited she came here. It’s going to be a fun three years with her, for sure.”
Brown is eager to work with her backcourt partner: “Kiana inspires me everyday. I’ve been learning a lot from her. She has been very helpful directing me and telling me, ‘You can make this read here.’ Some stuff that maybe the coaches didn’t even realize that she picks up on her own from experience. It definitely has been cool working with Kiana and growing the friendship with her.”
Brown got some invaluable extra experience this summer when she made the U18 team that decisively won a gold medal. On a roster packed with talent the toughest competition was to earn more minutes on the court for Team USA. She finished the six-game tournament averaging 7.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists. She had 10 turnovers in the first three games and one in the last three combined.
“It was definitely an exercise in mental toughness for me,” she said of making the team and earning playing time. “It forced me to really focus on everyday and every individual session, just being the being the best player I can be. It was a great growing experience.”
“The biggest thing for me was figuring out what was being asked of me and execute that every time I got out there. Whether that was being a great teammate or contributing different ways on the court, that was what I was trying to do. Having good conversations with my coaches about what they wanted from me and be ready to go when they did call my name.”
Brown picked up a number of “little things that I never heard of before” during her U18 experience. She brought those lessons with her to Stanford, where she quickly encountered the mental climb required when transitioning to Cardinal basketball. But she’s getting help along the way from an inclusive group of teammates.
“It’s a pretty steep learning curve,” she laughs. “But the great thing is my teammates and coaches have been helpful making sure I know what’s going on and I’m on the same page as everyone. They have been patient with me and that’s been nice.”
“This is the closest group of friends I’ve ever had. We share a lot of the same interests. It has been a pleasure to be around them and have them kind of accept me into the family. That’s definitely been the coolest part.”