October 18, 2015

New season, new looks

Story by Judy Richter, photos by Dave Cortesi

The 2015-16 edition of the Stanford women’s basketball team had its first chance to play in front of fans thanks to an open practice Oct. 17.

At least 100 fans were there. After the practice, head coach Tara VanDerveer introduced the staff and players, then answered questions.

Fans take over Press/VIP box
Besides being the first time with fans present, it was the first practice against men. Coached by assistant coach Tempie Brown, the men were joined by SWBB alum Sebnem Kimyacioglu, ’05. She has been playing professionally in Turkey for the past six years, but with her law degree in hand, she’s job hunting in Los Angeles, Tara said.

Marta vs Sebnem
Also on Tempie’s team was senior guard Kiran Lakhian, who played at the point. Kiran was on the team as a walk-on her freshman year and has returned this year.

Kiran vs Alexa

Maples sports some new features

Fans began arriving while the scrimmage was under way. They had a chance to see the new scoreboard above the court as well as digital screens to display statistics in each corner of Maples Pavilion.

The screens have replaced the championship banners in those spots, but it is hoped that the information that was on the banners will be painted on the white walls behind the screens, Tara said.

Another new addition is railings that will make it easier for fans to get to their seats in the upper levels.

Ten women played against Tempie’s team. Junior guard Lili Thompson was absent because of “a family situation,” Tara said. Red shirt senior guard Alex Green, rehabbing from her second ACL injury, practiced her shot in the corners. She’s expected to return to action in mid-December.

Freshman forward/center Shannon Coffee was limited to practice shooting, too. Tara said she has a sore foot and is expected to return soon. She has been “doing well for us,” the coach said.

Several players hit 3-pointers during the 10-minute quarters (something else new this year). They included Kirin, sophomore guard Brittany McPhee and junior guard Briana Roberson, among others.

Posts get more involved in scoring

One offensive change that seemed clear was a greater effort to get the ball inside to the posts, who made aggressive moves to the basket. Chief among them were junior forwards Erica “Bird” McCall and Kailee Johnson along with sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson.

Speed is another hallmark of this team. It was evident not only after defensive rebounds but also during some nifty fast breaks.

After the scrimmage, Tara gathered the players in a circle and introduced Seb to them. She spoke briefly, but she couldn’t be heard upstairs.

Sebnem talks to the team

After a shooting practice, Tara introduced everyone, starting with the staff. The coaches include assistants Tempie and Kate Paye plus associate head coach Amy Tucker. Brittany Keil is sports performance coach.

Team lines up for introduction

Staff has two newcomers

One newcomer to the staff is trainer Katelin Knox. Hana Potter, who was an intern last year, has moved up to video coordinator. The new intern is Mary Merg, a 2014 graduate of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Next were the players: Kiran; Alex; Bird, who had “a great summer” (a gold medal winner for the U.S. in the World University Games); senior forward Tess Picknell; Shannon; and Kaylee, who’s “picking up where she left off” last year, Tara said.

Brittany had “a great week this week,” Tara said. Also introduced were freshman guard Alexa Romano, the program’s first player from New Mexico; and freshman forward Alanna Smith, an Australian who’s the team’s first international player, Tara said.

Rounding out Tara’s introductions were freshman guard Marta Sniezek; Bri, who had several family members rooting for her; Karlie and Kailee.

Marta, Alanna and Alexa

After dismissing the players to go to the weight room before showers, Tara answered questions.

Tara answers questions
One person asked who will start at the point. “One of them,” Tara said. “We’ve got some good choices. We’re going to use them all.”

“We would like to play a deep rotation” and to press more. “We’re looking to go inside more and run more,” Tara said.

Coach discusses freshmen

Asked to talk about the four freshmen, she said Marta is one of the best point guards ever to come to Stanford. Alexa is one of the fastest and has “a really nice pull-up” shot.

Shannon is “a classic big post.” Alanna, who can play the 3 or 4 spots, can hit 3-pointers and rebounds well. Because she’s still dealing with some fatigue, she was used sparingly in the practice.

Alanna first came to Stanford’s attention when her father contacted Amy. During the summer she played on Australia’s U19 team and was named one of the top five players in that international competition.

Tara complimented the upperclassmen for doing a good job of mentoring the freshmen.

“We’re excited about the year,” she concluded.

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