November 12, 2023

A Great Team in the Making? Chemistry and Intensity


  Warren Grimes

After scoring a mere 87 points against unranked Hawaii, Stanford put up 96 against 9th ranked Indiana.  Indiana coach Teri Moren described Stanford as “terrific.”  Maybe she was right. 

Indiana met Stanford at Maples on a Sunday mid-November afternoon.  Stanford looked like a formidable final four team.  Indiana scored 64 points but trailed massively early on, with Stanford holding a 54-26 lead at the end of the first half.  The final margin of victory was 32 points.

Indiana is a very good team, likely to compete for a big-10 championship, but Stanford brought intensive defense and unselfish inside-outside play on offense that the Hoosiers could not match.  Is Stanford better than last year?  A bit early to say, but things are looking pretty good.

The loss of All American Haley Jones was big, but that loss is being offset.  This year’s team brings an intangible team chemistry, led by leaders like Cameron Brink.   Brink, and others, bring experience, intensity, and unselfish team play.  In addition to chemistry, there are at least two other notable strengths to this team that contribute to its inside-outside dominance.  First, the returning veterans are improved.  Second, the three freshmen, led by Nunu Agara, are impressive. 

Kiki Iriafen’s improvement, while perhaps expected, is noteworthy.  Last year, Iriafen averaged 6.7 points and 3.8 boards per game.  This year, after two games, the average is 21.5 points and 12 boards.  Last year, Iriafen shared a lot of minutes with Lauren Betts, but the combined total of those two players was 12 points and 7.3 boards.  I expect Iriafen’s totals will moderate as the season progresses, but she is now a part of the best post duo in the conference.  I expect double-doubles will be frequent in Iriafen’s junior season.

The other half of that duo is All American Cameron Brink.  Brink has benefitted from playing 3 on 3 basketball over the past Summer.  Her post moves are quicker than ever, and she has hit 2 of her 4 three-point attempts so far.  She leads the team in boards with 12.5 per game despite playing an average of just 22.5 minutes so far.  Against Indiana, she had 20 points, 17 boards, and 4 blocks (2 against Indiana’s All American center Mackenzie Holmes).  Stretching back to last season, Brink has made over 50 consecutive free throws, and she gets lots of opportunities.

Other starters are also showing improvement.   Fifth year senior Hannah Jump leads the team in minutes played and has converted three-point shots at a 50% rate.  She seems more active in give and go moves, scoring six of her nine baskets inside the three-point line.  Elena Bosgana has started two games and is averaging 10 points per game on a combination of threes and interior moves.

Starting point guard Talana Lepolo continues with major minutes as a ball handler (and swishing 2 of 3 three-point attempts against Indiana).

I’ve not mentioned Brooke Demetre, who once again with her steadiness and outside shooting may lead the team in minutes off the bench.  She can help out in the post positions, as she did late-game against Indiana.

Jzaniya Harriel is a veteran guard also likely to get more minutes this season.  Harriel is averaging 15 minutes and 3 points per game so far. 

Now let’s talk about the freshmen, starting with Nunu Agara.  The preseason hype on 6’2” Agara was that she could play the shooting guard position well and help elsewhere.  That was an understatement, particularly with respect to her inside game.  So far, Agara is averaging 15.5 points (second highest on the team) and 5 boards in an average of just 18 minutes per game.  Wow!  Agara turns out to be quick, strong, and creative on the inside.  She can also shoot from distance (1 for 2 so far).  Although not the highest ranked of the three incoming freshmen (Agara was ranked no. 37 by ESPN Hoopgurlz), she may get more minutes (and a starting assignment) more quickly than her classmates.  Her teammate Cameron Brink says Agara can play any of the 1-5 positions.

Courtney Ogden, ranked no. 10 by Hoopgurlz, is a shooter, but at 6’1” also someone who can battle inside. Ogden is averaging 13 minutes and 3.5 points.  I see an upward curve for Ogden as she adjusts to the faster collegiate game. 

Chloe Clardy, a guard ranked no. 39 by Hoopgurlz, has a great handle and three-point shooting skills, also averaging 3.5 points in just under 13 minutes.  She can play the point and shoot the three (3-8).  Her future looks bright.

The chemistry seems exceptional.  The players play with intensity and support for one another.  The future looks bright for a team that has superior inside-outside potential.   

1 comment:

Mary said...

I didn't know what to expect from this team! This Indiana game exhibited one of the best team efforts that I can remember. Kiki's improvement is amazing and gives us one of the strongest duo of "bigs" in the country! I can hardly wait for our other games.