January 28, 2014

The best locker room in the nation

Hello FBC Blog Readers!

What’s your favorite room?  Is it the kitchen, living room, or den?  One room at Stanford has become a very special place for me -- the Stanford Women’s Basketball locker room. 

Now, what’s so special about a room we use to don our uniforms and prepare for games?   Stanford’s locker room is like no other.  It is a safe haven, a place I can go to in order to escape.  It’s a great place!  I believe we have the best locker room in the nation! 

Our locker room is a place where I can study.  A Stanford student-athlete must stay focused on academics, and the locker room is an easy place to study and complete homework.  If you enter the locker room, you will probably find Tess with a laptop working on an essay, Mikaela pondering math problems, or Chiney wearing her earphones and typing away.  Amber and Alex will be using their iPads for assignments for their Communications courses.  Lili and Karlie, pencils in hand, will be working away on their latest assignment.  You can even catch Taylor and Erica Payne reading page after page for an upcoming exam.  Our locker room is a quiet and great place for study. 

Not only is our locker room a great place for study, but also it is a great place to have fun.  With a large boom box at hand, our locker room can quickly become a dance floor.  Erica McCall (Bird) usually provides the music as the entire team breaks out in dance to great beats.  I love watching Jas impersonate Shakira, Bonnie perform a Russian traditional dance, or Toni's original spin around dance.  Sej always bursts out with the vocals and does the best renditions of Lady Gaga’s latest hits!  My favorite moment is when Bird decides to crank out the bass guitar.  Within seconds, the locker room is filled with laughter!  Our locker room is not only a place for studies, but also a quick getaway spot for great times with the team.

Finally, the locker room is a great place for reflection.  Our locker room is filled with many inspirational quotes. Displayed on one of the walls is John Wooden’s famous “Triangle of Success” which helps each player understand what it will take to achieve our ultimate goal -- winning an NCAA championship! When we need to focus and prepare for our practice or games, the locker room is where you will find us most. 

Our locker room is the best locker room in the nation -- a place for escape, study, great times, and reflection, which fosters team bonding, camaraderie, and a sense of community. 


January 18, 2014

Amber talks about leadership

Hello Everyone,

For my blog I'd like to talk about the leadership of the seniors of our team, Chiney, Sara James, and Mikaela Ruef. Chosen as this year's captains, they not only have the most experience but also display the essential qualities of leadership that guide the rest of us in the right direction, just as the seniors before them did and the seniors before that.

All three of our seniors lead us both on and off the court and help us push through the problems we encounter as a team.

Sej is one of the hardest working people on the team. She's always one of the first people on the floor before practice and before games. She competes hard and is a physical player who is willing to put her body on the line and leave her best effort on the court. Whether it is diving for a loose ball, crashing the glass for rebounds, sprinting her lane, or being vocal in practice, Sej's intensity is always at 110%. Whenever we prepare to play another team, I'm sure that I'm not the only one who feels sorry for the opposing player who has to guard and be guarded by Sej. If there's anything I should hope to take from Sara, it is to be as tough as her.

Mikaela is definitely one of smartest players on the team (if you need someone to read over a paper for a class for you, Mik is undoubtedly the person to ask). A core member of our team today, I've witnessed Mik's growth from serving more of a role to becoming an indispensable component of our gameplan both offensively and defensively. We count on Mik everyday to hit open shots, play great defense, rebound, and be aggressive. Additionally, Mik is a great passer, from which the rest of us benefit. Mik is a problem solver- if something isn't working, it is absolute that she will devise and share ways that we can find solutions.

Finally, there aren't enough words to describe what Chiney does for and means to this team. The all-time PAC-12 leader in rebounding, Chiney plays with a ferocity and passion matched by none. You can see it in her eyes. From increasing her scoring after Nneka graduated to improving her outside shooting, Chiney has always stepped up in all the right ways, helping lead her team to success. I feel privileged to play with a player of her caliber and call her a teammate, friend, and sister.

I'd also like to take the time to acknowledge another one of our seniors,Toni Kokenis. Although she's no longer playing with us this year, Toni was one of my favorite teammates to play with. She could shoot, drive, was our team's best perimeter defender, and was incredibly fast both with and without the ball. Helpful both during practices and on the sideline during games, we all appreciate what Toni has done for Stanford basketball.

As I reflect on my freshman experience, a time where I was often overwhelmed and sometimes lost in the transition to college basketball and to college life, I can't help but think about the seniors that assisted me in adjusting to such a large change. Lindy La Rocque, Nneka Ogwumike, Sarah Boothe, and Grace Mashore all impacted me in ways that I could never forget, and although our time was short together, I still fondly think about the great memories we shared together and appreciate everything they did for me.

Time has flown, as it seems that I was just a freshman not long ago. As I look forward to my senior season with the rest of my class, I hope to carry out and build on the legacy of being a leader here at Stanford.


January 14, 2014

Reflections on 900 Wins!

Last month in Mexico, our team won a game that was my 900th win as a college head coach. We all took pictures in front of a nice banner (compliments of Fast Break Club member Su Schaffer who flew down for the tournament!). The game (and some of my bleeped comments during the game) was chronicled by a Pac-12 camera crew. I was up late answering hundreds of text and email messages from many thoughtful people. Some coaches reminded me that they had contributed to the 900! Later that evening our team met and watched video. We had a cake specially made as a surprise from the hotel chef to celebrate. After 15 minutes, we were back to video for the game the next day!

At our first home game after returning home, we had a postgame celebration (actually win 902!). WOW! There were sunglasses (designed by Toni Kokenis), cool 900-win shirts, the 900 game ball, a framed Stanford jersey numbered 900 and a sextant from Nike! (You ask why a sextant? That is another story!) Stanford University President Hennessy along with Athletic Director Bernard Muir congratulated me at half-court. I was TOTALLY surprised by my mother who with great friend and fan Nancy Sabbag showed up at my house the night before the celebration!

I am a person who lives in the present. I also don't like to be the center of attention. I will say that 900 wins did get me thinking and reflecting on all those games so I thought I would share 13 of the 900 that REALLY stand out in my mind.

1. Idaho vs. Western Washington, 1978: Our point guard was Willette White, who is currently an assistant at Utah! This game stands out because we were beaten REALLY badly by them earlier in the season. Our team simulated the Western Washington offense every day in practice to get ready for the rematch and the hard work paid off! We also went from a gym where I pulled the bleachers out (maybe could seat 25) to drawing over 3,000 for our AIAW Tournament game at the end of the season!

2. Ohio State vs. South Carolina, 1980: This was my first year at Ohio State. Our team was a .500 team just learning a new system. South Carolina had been in the Final Four the year before. They were LOADED! My sister Marie was in grad school at OSU. She had a class but told me she would be at the game at halftime. I told her, "The game might be over by halftime." Marie looked at me and told me, "Well, if you don't believe you can win, why would your players?" This may have been one of the biggest upset wins of my career. Thank you, Marie, for the important lesson!

3. Ohio State vs. Iowa, 1985: On the way to the Sunday afternoon game, I said to my assistant, "Did church just let out? Where are all of these people going?" My assistant replied, "They are all coming to our game, Tara." Iowa Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer and I stood together looking into a packed Carver-Hawkeye Arena. All the yellow and black made it looked like a beehive. This was a women's basketball record attendance - 22,157. We were down 12 at half time but the 2-time Big Ten Champions pulled it out!

4. Stanford vs. Tennessee, 1989: After losing to Tennessee in Knoxville in 1988, I went back to my hotel room distraught. Could we ever beat them? Thanks to my sister Heidi, we broke down the game tape all through the night. When Tennessee came to Stanford the next year the game was a break out game. Led by Jennifer Azzi, Sonja Henning, and Stacy Parsons in the backcourt along with Trisha Stevens, Katy Steding, and Val Whiting up front, we prevailed for the first time over the Lady Vols!

5. Stanford vs. Arkansas, 1990: This game was only the second time Stanford had been in the Elite Eight. The year before we had lost to Louisiana Tech with Venus Lacy. After that game, I said, "How can we beat them?" Associate Head Coach Amy Tucker said, "We have (incoming super frosh) Val (Whiting) next year!" We played the game at Stanford. There were 7 of the top 20 teams in our West Bracket. The Sweet Sixteen game before had been a nail biter vs. Mississippi. We barely survived. Afterwards I told our team, "Pack for spring break. If we continue to play like this we will not get to Knoxville." As I entered Maples for the Arkansas game, one of the "red coats" (ushers) handed me a note. It was from Jennifer and it said, "Tara relax, this one is for you!" We played GREAT, scoring over 100 and we even had a 6-point play! That was an incredible atmosphere. The bouncy Maples floor and band played on and on! I never wanted that night to end! We would go on to win Stanford's first NCAA Championship in Knoxville. Our team and band celebrated at the Azzi house that night. It was AWESOME!

6. Stanford vs. Tennessee, 1991: Without Sonja and Jennifer our backcourt had some new faces - welcome Molly Goodenbour and Christy Hedgpeth! The frontcourt had Rachel Hemmer, Chris MacMurdo and old timer Val Whiting. We also had a great captain in Ann Adkins. We were down 10 with just 2 minutes left in the game at Maples. Behind really loud fans we mounted a tremendous comeback. The last play was an inbounds offensive rebound that freshman Rachel Hemmer grabbed and put in to seal the victory. Beating Tennessee became a good omen! Our team went on that year to beat Dawn Staley's Virginia team and Western Kentucky to win the 1992 NCAA Championship!

7. Stanford vs. Oregon, 1997 and 2003: Playing at Mac Court was ALWAYS tough! For 2 years Oregon won the Pac-10. They had great crowds and Mac Court had the BEST popcorn in the league! I picked 2 games because in each game we were able to make spectacular plays at the end of the game. First in 1997 with only seconds remaining we ran a side out of bounds play for Kate Starbird. She came off a double screen and knocked down a 3 pointer to win the game! In the same gym six years later, down 1 with 3.3 seconds, post T'Nae Thiel threw a long bomb to Nicole Powell who was TACKLED going to the basket. It felt like an eternity but finally the whistle blew and Nicole calmly sank 2 FT to win.

8. Stanford vs. Vanderbilt, 2004: This year we were a 6-seed. After beating Missouri and Oklahoma (the 3-seed), we were not welcomed warmly in Norman for the Regionals! The newspaper reporters didn't give us much of a chance against the Commodores. Behind a great team effort led by Susan King, Sebnem Kimyacioglu, T'Nae, Nicole and the heroine of the game Kelley Suminski, we fought hard. Again it came down to the last play. We called a clear out for Nicole. As she started her move she was doubled. She pitched to Kelley and just like she had practiced over and over in her NJ driveway - nothing but net! Kelley's vertical after that made basket had to be 40 plus inches!!!

10. Stanford vs. Maryland, 2008: After struggling to get back to the Final Four, this Candice Wiggins lead team got us back in a BIG way! Candice along with Jayne Appel, Kayla Pedersen, Ros Gold-Onwude, and JJ Hones took down the defending National Champions with brilliant passing and shooting. This was a team that didn't want to stop playing with each other! We went on to beat UConn in Tampa before our loss in the Championship game to Tennessee.

11. Stanford vs. Xavier, 2010: Another Regional Final game. Xavier was BIG. I mean REALLY BIG! It was not a pretty game. Both teams struggled to make shots. On top of that Jayne fouled out. Freshman Joslyn Tinkle responded with great play! The game was tight. We were down 2 with under 30 seconds. Ros smartly fouled. They missed both FT. We came back and always-steady Kayla Pedersen put a shot up that bounced on every piece of the rim before dropping in. With the game tied and Xavier ball, we knew who was getting the shot - All-American Amber Harris. We doubled her but didn't rotate to the player under the basket. The open player missed two point-blank shots that would have put Xavier ahead. After the rebound and time out, Associate Head Coach Amy Tucker drew up the game-winning play and Jeannette Pohlen took it the length of the court in 4.4 seconds for an ESPN Top 10 Sports Center highlight!

12. Stanford vs. UConn, 2010: I hope you were at this game! Maples was ELECTRIC! Behind the great shooting of Jeanette (31 pts), the hustle play of Kayla, rebounding of Nneka, and defense by Chiney and Jos, we broke the amazing record of 90 wins. Coincidentally we had been the last team to beat them, as Notre Dame was the bookend with the UCLA men's record.

13. Stanford vs. Baylor, 2012: This was a game that no one thought we had a chance to win. We had lost to Baylor in the national semifinal the year before. They had gone 40-0 and looked unstoppable. Our team didn't get that memo way over in beautiful Hawaii. What a game Chiney, Mikaela, Taylor, Toni, Amber and Jos had! Our team followed the game plan flawlessly. We shot the ball extremely well. It was too bad the game wasn't televised because it was a great game. On the final play Baylor was down 2 with a side line out of bounds. Everyone in the gym knew where the ball was going. We sandwiched Brittany and the shot fell short. ALOHA!!!

There are so many other games that I could reflect on. I have been so fortunate to work with outstanding assistants and coach incredibly talented players. Each year and team is amazing to work with. Why did I pick 13? If you watch our team this season you know 13 is a great number! I am excited about this year's team and our Pac-12 season! I hope you will have a chance to see our team this season. A top game that really stands out could happen and you don't want to miss it!

-Tara VanDerveer

Note: Tara's blog was originally posted to the Stanford WBB Alum newsletter.

January 9, 2014

The Cardinal's awesome Christmas presents


First and foremost, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break! Our team absolutely loves the holidays because it means we get to take a break from school and focus on basketball. It is also a special time for us because we get to go home for a few days and spend time with our families. However, with Christmas comes presents for the Stanford Cardinal; therefore, I have decided to dedicate my blog to telling you about some of the awesome presents we received this year!

I’ll begin with Jas. Jas had the toughest route home this year to Georgia, but she safely made it there to spend Christmas with her family. Her favorite gift she received is a sleek pair of black boots from her brother. Jas now has about 20 pairs of boots.

Next is Alex. Alex had a great time at home in Texas with her family, and she was really excited to see her sister again. Lex said her favorite gift this year was a white sweater from her mom, and she has already worn it a few times so it’s obvious she loves it!

Sara “Sej” James comes from Sacramento, so she was able to avoid any airports for her holiday travel… I am extremely jealous. If you didn’t know already, Sej is a pretty crafty person. She takes most of our photos when we travel to awesome places, and she bought a GoPro before we went to Italy so she could take awesome pictures. For Christmas she got a Helicopter that flies the GoPro so she can take aerial-view pictures, which is insanely cool! It’s almost like a team present.

Next is one of the freshmen, Kailee Johnson. Kailee comes from Oregon, so she had a nice and short trip home with her family. It is probably hard to notice from the crowd, but she always has her nails painted, so it makes sense that her favorite gift from this year is an at-home Shellac manicure set from her grandma. Kailee gave me a manicure the other day, and this thing is the real deal.

Erica McCall is another one of our freshmen. It is weird for me to even type out her name because we all call her “Bird”, and she has fully welcomed this nickname. Bird didn’t really have to travel much because she comes from Bakersfield, California, so she really got to maximize her time at home. Bird says her favorite gift is her new Nikes and Vans!

Chiney had a really special Christmas this year because she got to see her entire family together, which is pretty difficult considering Nneka is playing basketball in a different country. Chiney’s favorite Christmas gift was BeyoncĂ©’s new album. It’s been on repeat in the locker room.

Next is Amber. Amber is one of the Texans, so she had to face the airports as well. Bam was pumped to get home for the holidays so she could spend some quality time with her family. She says her favorite gift she received this year was a new MacBook!

Erica Payne, much better known as “E”, has the shortest trip home. She comes from Danville, California, so she is able to hop in the car and drive about 45 minutes to get home. I think she was more excited to see her dogs than anything else. She can’t pick one favorite, but she got a lot of new clothes that she is really excited about. I definitely agree with her on this one...you can never have too many clothes.

Next is our girl Tess. Tess is another Oregon gal, and she was actually able to travel home with her parents because they came to our Tennessee game (which was a great game!!!). Tess says her favorite gift from this year’s Christmas is the soundtrack to Desolation of Smaug and seeing The Hobbit!

Next is another freshman, Briana Roberson. Bri is a Californian as well, and she was stoked for the short trip home. Bri is always listening to music, introducing new songs to our team, and playing her iPod in the locker room. This year for Christmas, she got a new pair of Beats headphones (probably because she wore out her old ones), and she wears them all day long!

Mikaela Ruef, our fifth-year Senior from Ohio, switched up her plans and actually stayed in California this year for Christmas because her family came to visit her, which was pretty cool. Her favorite gift she received is definitely the sushi kit from her mom. Our team, for the most part, loves sushi! Ruef has had us over a few times during the break to make (more so eat) sushi, and she is quite the chef.

Next is Bonnie. Bonnie was so excited to go home because she loves and misses SoCal. She had a pretty easy flight home as well, and she was fortunate to have a companion during travel since her sister is on the team now, too. Bon says her favorite gift this year is …

Karlie Samuelson is a California freshman. She said she had an awesome Christmas this year with her family, and she was so happy to get to see her puppy again. Karl’s favorite gift from this year is a new iPhone because she seemed to have a minor incident with her last one.

I’ll wrap it up with our last freshman, Lili Thompson. Lili actually had shorter travel than “E” because her family moved out to California when Lili came to Stanford. It is so awesome that they were able to do this, and I know Lili really appreciates it. Lili says the best gift she received this year is a new pair of headphones, and she has been listening to the BeyoncĂ© album on repeat as well.

I almost forgot to share my favorite Christmas gift this year! I was lucky enough to make it home without any travel issues this year, which was awesome. Along with E, I received some new clothes for Christmas that I am stoked about, and I also got a new MacBook Air, which I am obsessed with! It was a special Christmas this year. Our team is extremely blessed and grateful.

We are really thankful for the amazing holiday break we had. We know it is not about the gifts or anything, and we could not do what we do without the support of our families. Stanford is a special place filled with great people and amazing support from people like you! Thank you for all you do and keep it up because it is going to be a memorable year.

Thanks for reading!
Taylor Greenfield

January 3, 2014

Sara's Stanford Memories

Throughout my time as a Stanford women's basketball player, I have played in some incredible places, played for some incredible coaches, and played with some incredible teammates. I've made all sorts of memories that I will never forget, and given that this is my senior year, there is so much I will miss about being a part of this program.

One of the most memorable moments during my freshman year was the night we beat UConn at home. That was my first experience really seeing how loud Maples could get, and I will never forget going wild on the bench and rushing the court once the final buzzer sounded.

Other important games ring a bell, like our win in San Francisco for Tara's 800th and our win in Mexico for her 900th. I don't think I understood the magnitude of Tara's 800th win given that I was a still a wide-eyed little freshman caught in the headlights, but being a part of her 900th this year was really special. It shows how fortunate we all are to play for such an elite and accomplished coach.

There are many more awesome games like these (aside from the 800th and 900th) that I will never forget, but it is the people I got to share those experiences with that mean the most.

Throughout my four years here, I have made some of the best friends of my life. Each year I say that there's no way to have a better team than the last, but I've found that the next is always just as good.

I've made plenty of friends throughout my lifetime, but there's something distinctly different about the friendships made on a team like this. Spending 5+ hours together a day, we honestly become a family. My teammates have seen me at my best and my worst, and love me just the same. We go through incredible tests together, whether it's running sprints day in and day out, or even just battling whatever life challenges come our way together while we spend our time at school.

I was thinking about it on our last road trip to Fresno — that there's something super cool about the time we all spend together on bus rides. We always have our same seats but the situations are always different.

We've traveled to Italy, Mexico, Hawaii, Connecticut, and everywhere in between together. Just like anything else, you don't just remember where you end up, but the ride that got you there.

After a game, on the bus back to the hotel or whatever, the team is crazy — yelling, singing, and goofing around.

On the way to games, on the other hand, everyone's doing their own thing to get themselves ready. Nobody is really talking to each other, and most people have their headphones in, but even then, the team is together. We're all visualizing how we want to play as a team and individually, whether it's by physically reviewing the scouting report on our ipads, or just by closing our eyes and thinking about it.There are plenty of times like this — that aren't really obvious as to times when memories would be formed — but they often mean the most.

Like I said, becoming a Stanford women's basketball player has welcomed me in to an incredible family. I can name them all — Kayla, Jeanette, Ashley, Hannah, Mel, Nneka, Boothe, Lindy, Grace, Jos, Ruef, Chiney, Toni, Tay, E, Bon, Jas, Bam, Lex, Tess, Aly, Denia, Kiran, Karlie, Kailee, Bri, Lili, and Bird. Not to mention my coaches, and all the other staff members I've worked with.

Whether I end up going to nursing school, finding a job with my HumBio degree, or anything else next year, I will really miss being a part of such amazing teams.

Can't look too far ahead though — we have a job to do in 2014! Pac-12 season is here, and it's time to continue our trek to the national championship!