November 26, 2020

Fresh Faces, Fresh Opportunities, and - uhm - Continuing Covid Concerns


Warren Grimes

It was refreshing, even invigorating. 

Fans got to see Stanford’s WBB team in video-stream action on the day before Thanksgiving.  Not a nail biter, but the team performed impressively in a 108 to 40 thrashing of over-matched Cal Poly.  Everyone got playing time, and eight players scored 7 or more points (five had double digits).

It was rewarding to see improvements in sophomore performance from Haley Jones, Fran Belibi, Ashten Prechtel, and Hannah Jump (Jones had a double-double – 16 points and 10 boards in 25 minutes; Jump showed fitness and offensive flexibility in scoring 15 points in 17 minutes). 

But I want to focus on the three freshmen.  Let’s start with the two least heralded recruits.

Agnes Emma-Nnopu is just a player.  She is strong, athletic, and everywhere – particularly on the boards. When I first learned of her interest in attending Stanford, I went back and looked at her records playing for Australian national teams.  In the U-19 World Cup held in Bangkok in the summer of 2019, Emma- Nnopu was listed as a small forward, but she tied the Australian team’s big (Alexander Fowler) as the most efficient rebounder (averaging 12.8 boards over 40 minutes).  That team got to the final and took Team USA to overtime before losing by 4 points.  In that final, the Australian coaches played Emma-Nnopu for 35.2 minutes, and she responded with 10 boards, 9 points, and a strong defensive presence.

Against Cal Poly, Emma-Nnopu played just 15 minutes, but chalked up 7 boards and 8 points (including converting her sole 3 point attempt).  On a per minute basis, Emma-Nnopu was THE most efficient rebounder on the team.   As an opportunistic guard, she’s going to be a terror on the boards and meaningful contributor to the offense.

Not to be outdone, Jana Van Gytenbeek came off the bench for 14 minutes to rack up 9 points and 4 beautiful assists.  Two of those gems were half court passes to a streaking teammate who converted a fast break layup.  With no turnovers, Van Gytenbeek’s assist-turnover ratio is, for the time being, INFINITY.  Oh, and Van Gytenbeek was 2 for 4 from the three point line.

Now to THE most heralded freshman – Cameron Brink.  She hardly disappointed.  Brink came off the bench to play 18 minutes.  In those limited minutes, she came close to a double-double, with 17 points and 9 boards.  Brink was impressive with her ball handling.  Brink may not be the optimal post defender against an opponent’s strong offensive big, but she could make that same big’s life miserable when Brink is playing offense.  Brink attempted no three point shots, but the record shows she can and will be a three point threat.  She drew lots of fouls, and needs to improve on her 5 for 10 freep-throw conversion rate.

All of this news about freshmen and sophomores leaves out fifth year senior Anna Wilson.  She got the start and had a team high 5 assists in 15 minutes on the court.  Wilson is part of a deep roster that gives Coach Van Derveer lots and lots of options. 

I loved the passing and assist making of this team – 26 assists against only 10 turns.  The 2.6 team ratio will be difficult to maintain against tougher opponents, but says something about the team’s potential.  The team’s number 2 national ranking is well deserved.  Scoring 108 points is no joke.  Cal Poly was overmatched, but a competitive side that will do well in the Big West conference. 

The team’s biggest immediate challenge is the pandemic.  There will likely be cancelled games, maybe lots of them.  Indeed, shortly after the Cal Poly game ended, the team’s scheduled Sunday game against Pacific was cancelled – another casualty of Covid 19.    

Coach Van Derveer’s advice to the team is to be flexible.  Good advice for all of us. 

Stay safe!

1 comment:

Stephen Perlman said...

The COVID crisis is real, but Santa Clara County Commission is (sadly) made a blanket ruling that all organizations including professional and college sports teams, must cease operations including practices.

The ruling punishes those organizations (i.e. Stanford WBB), who have been abiding by the strictest guidelines in practices on and off the court.

One Commissioner even said- teams that leave the County to practice and play elsewhere are being selfish. They should stay and do something productive like raising $$ to fight COVID.

Cancelling too many games leaves the women less prepared for Conference and unless the situation is resolved, the #2 team in the country may not qualify for the NCAA Tourney if they don't play enough games. Imagine that!

Stephen Perlman