Stanford has exciting potential; focused rebounding, toughness
It's a quick one-word answer when you ask Stanford's coaches what the focus is in practices as the Cardinal get ready for the season: Rebounding. Head coach Tara VanDerveer said that generally she wants the team to be more physical than the version that was pushed around at times last season, so rebounding is an obvious tell of whether that's improving.
The Cardinal are keeping track of rebounding information in practice in much greater detail than past seasons, VanDerveer said.
"When I look at the games we were not as successful in last year they (the opponent) was more physical," she said. "We didn’t rebound. We weren’t aggressive enough. Being more physical is the real answer, but rebounding is a part of being physical.
“Every day we chart who goes to the O-boards and who boxes out. We’re really going to know, so it’s not going to be, ‘I think this person is doing it.’ We’re going to have the numbers.”
A couple practices into camp it's already noticeable to VanDerveer and associate head coach Kate Paye that the Cardinal are a better team after the work in the spring and summer. Given the almost year-round schedule of workouts, and the players getting time in the gym on their own, VanDerveer said there isn't much shock with what the coaches see when camp starts.
"I think people have really improved. Maya (Dodson), Estella (Moschkau), our sophomores really improved a lot. The improvement impressed me and the absolute readiness of our freshmen (Lexie and Lacie Hull and Jenna Brown). It wasn’t just the sophomores who improved. I think Nadia (Fingall) has improved a lot. People came back improved and serious.”
The coaches offered their takes on the development of a number of players:
Alanna Smith (Sr. 3/4/5): The Australian just wrapped up a successful FIBA World Cup run in Spain that ended in the championship game against Team USA, which was led by former Cardinal great Nneka Ogwumike. Smith was arguably Australia's top player and she scored 10 points and had two blocks in the final.
"When you see she’s playing against the best we can’t recreate that in practice," said "bigs" coach Tempie Brown. "She’s doing well. She’s having a great preseason practice, in my opinion. She’s playing against the best in the world and that’s all that matters. She’s going to come back, get some rest and be ready to go.
"Her confidence is better. Her mobility is something we love. I think in some ways that’s the biggest thing is between her ears. To know she can compete with the best is all you can ask for. She’s going to come back here and be the versatile player we need her to be."
Estella Moschkau (Soph. 3/4): “She’s knocking her shot down and playing with more confidence," VanDerveer said. "She’s also playing two positions, playing the three and the four. Last year she didn’t know the four. In our offense it’s really four out, so three is the same as the four but it didn’t register last year. I think her determination, she’s always been a really hard worker. It would be great to have her out there.
“She knew it was going to be a big adjustment. A lot of people would get frustrated and discouraged and I think it motivated her in a good way. She’s stronger. She is playing really hard. Everyone has things to work on but we need a lot of the good things she does.”
Kiana Williams (Soph. 1/2): "She has a whole different level of confidence," Paaye said. "She is much more vocal. She’s comfortable with what she’s doing out there. I think this being the second year with her running what we’re running on offense, the whole team and staff has more comfort with what we’re doing. We’re not starting from scratch. Kiana is in better shape. She’s much stronger and more active defensively.”
Lexie and Lacie Hull (Freshmen): “I love their motors," VanDerveer said of the twins. "They go hard. They catch onto things very quickly. The college game is more physical and you can’t make as many mistakes. You don’t get as many shots. You have to take advantage of every minute you’re out there and every minute you’re on the side.”
VanDerveer is still evaluating where the Hulls fit best on the court. So far Lexie has been one of the team's best rebounders and Lacie has shot the ball better since arriving in the summer.
Nadia Fingall (Junior, 3/4/5): Fingall is one of the more versatile forwards on the team and is capable of staying on the court in partnership with any of the other Stanford bigs.
“Nadia Fingall has really improved and is in the best shape of her career and is playing really well," Paye said.
Brown added: "Nadia Fingall is doing extremely well. She came back with a huge chip on her shoulder. She is really determined. She has been a great spark for us."
Maya Dodson (Soph. 4/5): The 6-4 forward showed flashes last season what she can do with her incredible athleticism.
"Maya Dodson is a totally different player from her freshman year," Paye said.
And Brown's straightforward explanation of the reason for the big step from her pupil is that the Georgian is playing with a lot more confidence. All the physical tools are there to be great.