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Stanford ready to add layers to foundation of system

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From left, Dorian Pickens and Reid Travis at Pac-12 media day Thursday.
USA TODAY Sports Images

Stanford has entered what could be called Phase Two of the practice schedule leading to the Nov. 10 opener against Cal Poly. On Friday Stanford finished practice No. 10 and head coach Jerod Haase said this week the Cardinal plan to start adding on to the foundation of knowledge they’ve built.

“We have a better understanding of all the things we need to improve upon,” he smiled. “Next week we get into more variety of things to add to system.”

At Pac-12 media day Thursday he gave an example: “When I talk about multiple defenses these guys don’t even know what I’m talking about right now because all we have done is man-to-man. We’ll start putting layers on top of it.”

Haase has been encouraged by how well the team has been picking up the Xs and Os of what the coaches are asking them to do.

But a talking point last week was that the effort level has to be at "10" every day. After one practice Haase text team captains Reid Travis, Dorian Pickens and Michael Humphrey to let them know that leading their teammates out of lackadaisical moments is important.

“When the team takes ownership of each component of the program I think good things happen,” Haase said. “At the end of the day I am the head coach and need to have control of what’s going on, but when a team really embraces the idea of leadership and holding each other accountable … those are your best teams. I don’t think that is based on age. It’s based on character coming through and we have a team of high character guys.”

Travis said it has been a process of the captains adapting to their roles, discovering each other’s strengths and who might reach certain teammates best. And he appreciates that the standards Haase set when he arrived have remained the same ever since.

“I know a lot of programs may put in core values or different things they want to follow and as seasons go up and down they shift,” Travis said. “I do respect a lot that things we did put in place day one are the same things we’re preaching today. It doesn’t really matter about the wins and losses, that takes care of itself, but the underlying things we’re building the program on will always stay as the foundation. That’s one of the biggest things we see over time.”

One part of the program that has changed dramatically on the court is the competition level. It will not be easy to earn minutes this season and Haase said he doesn’t shy away from tough conversations with players.

“This isn’t third grade rec league where everyone gets the same number of minutes,” he said. “This is the big leagues. Minutes are going to be earned. Off the court I love these guys to death and will do everything I can for them. On the court we want to win. We want to have as much success as possible.”

The raised competition level isn’t just because of the obvious roster change that four talented freshmen joined the team and an improved Kodye Pugh is coming off a redshirt year.

Upperclassmen have taken steps as well. Dorian Pickens continues to be praised by Haase as someone who has made significant progress.

Pickens said he wanted to leave behind his comfort zone this offseason and get better at scoring outside of the opportunities created within the system. He wants to do a better job attacking the basket to create his own chances.

And the raised competition level hasn’t led to any bad feelings among the team. The opposite is true, according to Pickens.

“This year with the togetherness there is a different feel, a different vibe around the locker room,” he said. “Guys are always joking with each other and hanging out together off the court."

Other quotes and notes

What the Cardinal know about Haase’s playing days: “The floor burns and how hard he played,” Travis said. “I ran into the people at the airport when we did land in Kansas who were like, ‘I don’t think you understand how hard he used to play.’ You get it when he’s coaching. You don’t have to see a video to tell. It kind of oozes out of him when he coaches.”

Improving attendance, especially students: “It is definitely getting better,” Travis said. “Obviously we went through some years when there weren’t fans coming out. After the Sweet 16 there was some buzz from that but obviously we didn’t string some seasons together … we understand that if we play better fans will come out and support us. That’s the nature of the business. Stanford is a busy place with a lot going on and I think it’s naive to overlook that with attendance.”

About a week ago Haase had a meeting with Sixth Man leaders, which he also did several times before last season.

Who is the best trash talker on the team: After a long silence of contemplation by Travis and Pickens their coach stepped in, “That may not be a strength of our team,” Haase laughed.

When you have to get away: Pickens said movies are a favorite group activity among the team. They might go on a Sunday trip to Half Moon Bay or other spots for the occasionally needed escapes from the campus and basketball.