July 02, 2020

Does the Road to Stanford Success Pass Through Bangkok?

A strange thought. 

But let me explain.
Last year at this time, FIBA conducted its Women’s Under 19 World Cup in Bangkok, Thailand.  The United States team won that competition by the slimmest of margins.  In the end game, Australia led late into the final minutes.  Team USA rallied to tie the game at the buzzer.  In overtime, the USA prevailed, but Team Australia had established itself as a meaningful threat to US dominance. 

Next season’s Stanford roster will include two players from Team USA and one from Team Australia.  One of these, Fran Belibi, is already known to Stanford fans.  In Thailand, Belibi did not start for the team, but was one of the first players off the bench.  She averaged 7.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in just over 16 minutes per game.  She was disruptive on defense, blocking and deflecting, stealing and intimidating.  Her rebounding efficiency was the best of any player in the 16-team tournament.  That's impressive.  Her 68.8% field goal conversion was also impressive.  These strengths were reflected in Belibi’s freshman year on the Farm.  The potential for a sophomore leap is strong.

A new player on next year’s roster will be Agnes Emma Nnopu, who played impressively for team Australia.  Nnopu averaged more minutes than Belibi – 23.2 per game.  Her point production, an average of 6.1 per game, was below that of Belibi.  Nnopu, however, can shoot the three ball and was proficient from the free throw line (78.6%).  She’s also a dedicated defender.  In the tournament, Nnopu’s most notable accomplishment came as an offensive rebounder.  Nnopu had 52 rebounds in the seven-game tournament, with a whopping 65.4% of these offensive boards.  That’s unusual and shows how active Nnopu was on the court.  Belibi, by contrast, was a more efficient rebounder on a per minute basis, but 64.7% of her boards were defensive.  Nnopu is not a post player and will likely defend on the perimeter, but she finds a way to get the boards and to get it done both offensively and defensively.  She’ll be fun to watch.

Last, but not least, Cameron Brink played on team USA in the Bangkok tournament.  Appearing in only 5 games (and averaging just 8 minutes per game), Brink averaged just 2 points per game but was an excellent defender and rebounder.  Brink’s shot blocking (on a per minute basis) was superior to that of Belibi and other posts.  Had Brink seen more minutes, her stats would certainly have impressed.  Brink is a top 10 recruit, the highest ranked in this year’s class.  Her all around game includes ball handling, outside shooting and assist making.  Brink will be difficult to keep off the floor. 

The third new player on Stanford’s roster, Jana Van Gytenbeek, lacks a direct Bangkok connection.  This promising young point guard, however, has chosen to work out this Summer with a group of young Stanford players that includes two Bangkok veterans, Belibi and Brink. If some of the Thai connection rubs off, watch out for Van Gytenbeek.  

So yes, experience in Bangkok can be part of the formula for success at Stanford.  All of these players will be exciting to watch when the new season commences.  For this to happen, Nnopu has to 
find her way to the US, and all of us have to come to grips with the pandemic.  

It will be done.


Warren Grimes said...

It's worth noting that in the end game of the Bangkok tournament, Nnopu had a splendid showing against the strong US team. She played for 35 minutes, an indication that her coaches wanted her on the floor. The box score results were 9 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Not bad!

craftsman said...

As always I greatly enjoyed your blog piece and learned from it. How do you see next season happening? Will it likely be played in empty gyms? Or greatly disbursed crowds limited to social distanced seating? Or cancelled? So glad to get some info on Nnopu she's going to help us. Do you have a prediction for the Final Four? Charlie Creme seems ready to hand it to the Gamecocks.
Malcolm McFall

Warren Grimes said...

I'm an optimist that the season, or most of it, will be played. Beyond that, I don't have a clear sense yet about whether fans will be present. So far, other sports that are being played seem to be for TV only (no fans).

One reason for my optimism is that revenue considerations strongly dictate that the season be played, at least for the Pac 12 network (which contributes substantially to the athletic department revenues for all the conference teams). Stanford's decision to drop 11 sports is an indication that the school is concerned about revenue issues.

The season is scheduled to begin in November and the NCAA tournament is not over until the end of March. That's almost a 5 month period. So far, we've had about 5 months of pandemic in the US, just to get some perspective on this. So a lot could change over that period.

I shy away from predictions, but very much believe that Stanford is capable of doing really well, including getting to the Final 4 and beyond.

Tim Mann said...

Nice article, thanks. Isn't her name Agnes Emma-Nnopu (as shown on the Stanford roster), making Emma part of her surname, not a middle name? So referring to her as just Nnopu looks wrong.