March 10, 2021

Deep Depth: Why This Stanford Team is BAD, BAD, BAD!

 Warren Grimes

BAD, as in Balanced And Deep.

Speaking of his beloved Yankees, Yogi Berra once said that his team had “deep depth.” 

Sorry, Yogi. 

Your Yankees had nothin’ compared to Kiana Williams and her mates.   

There are 12 active players on this season’s squad.  Each of these 12 is good enough to start or be a major rotation player on the 11 other conference teams.  Let’s take the two freshmen that averaged under 10 minutes per game.

Agnes Emma-Nnopu – Stanford’s Australian freshman averaged the fewest minutes (5.9 per game) but showed unique capabilities as a defender and rebounder.  Quick to the ball, Emma-Nnopu was the fourth highest rebounder on a per minute basis.  That’s impressive for a perimeter player.  What’s more, she was especially effective as an offensive rebounder.  Emma-Nnopu was the only player on the team that had more offensive boards (19) than defensive boards (16).  No one else came even close to this ratio.  Tell me that Charmin Smith or Cori Close wouldn’t have mortgaged the house in order to have Emma-Nnopu playing major minutes for their team.

Jana Van Gytenbeek  - A talented point guard, Van Gytenbeek averaged 8.7 minutes per game and shot three pointers at a 39.6% clip.  She had 30 assists against just 12 turnovers.  Jana would have started for many Pac-12 teams.  And tell me that Colorado and Oregon wouldn’t have loved to have Van Gytenbeek to fall back on when their starting point guards fell injured.

The only other Stanford player that averaged below 10 minutes is senior Alyssa Jerome, a team leader and solid and reliable player who started many games over her career.  This season, Jerome started only once, but that is surely a sign of the depth of this team, not any fall off in Jerome’s performance.  In the OSU game in Corvallis, Jerome came off the bench and was a real difference maker, hitting four of five 3-point shots and totaling 14 points.  No Pac-12 coach would turn down an opportunity to add Jerome to the roster.

The rest of the team?  Well six of the nine remaining have received at least one season-ending award.  Here’s the list.

Kiana Williams – All conference team and most outstanding player in the Pac-12 tournament.

Haley Jones – All conference team and chosen once as conference, player of the week.

Lexie Hull – All conference team and all-tournament team.

Anna Wilson – Co-winner conference defensive player of the year (and shot 38.5% from the three point line).

Cameron Brink – All-tournament team, all-freshman team, and honorable mention, all conference team.

Lacie Hull – Chosen as sixth player of the year.

A seventh player, Ashten Prechtel, received no award this season, but was chosen as the media, sixth player of the year last season.  Prechtel was one of 9 players on this team that shot threes at 32.6% or higher. 

That leaves only Fran Belibi and Hannah Jump.  Belibi, nationally known for her dunks, was the second leading rebounder on the team (on a per minute basis), and had an enviable field goal percentage (54.2%).  Jump had the highest three point conversion rate (42.7%) and was second only to Kiana Williams in total threes made.  So which Pac-12 coach isn’t drooling to have these two players on the roster?

Here’s one more illustration of this team’s depth.  Coach VanDerveer likes to relate that in intra-squad practice games, the team with the Hull twins routinely wins.  This is apparently so even if the opposing team is loaded with starters.  The story illustrates the amazing intensiveness and competitive spirit of the twins, but it also shows something else.  There isn’t much fall off between those who start and those who come off the bench. 

You got it, Yogi.  It’s deep depth.

This dynamic dozen should receive one of the two top overall seeds in the NCAA tournament.  Winning six games in a row against really good teams is a tall order.  But this team has BAD.  Stanford is Final Four material.  They will be a challenge for any opponent, even in potential fifth and sixth games.  

Bring it on.

And stay safe.

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