Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saturday in the Park with Stanford Players

Well, by miracles of miracles, both C and R were available and able to get away from our shabby lives and puny responsibilities and make the pilgrimage to San Francisco to see the baby Stanford players and… Chiney Ogwumnike.

Yes, yes C and R were excited to see ALL the incoming Stanford women’s basketball players who are here taking summer school and playing in the San Francisco Pro-Am league, and the second year players as well, but really, we wanted to get a look at the National Player of the Year up close and personal. (BTW, she won so many awards and Gatorade kept giving her something every month so C and R are not exactly sure what her official title is, but we hear she can play).

So after getting a little lost and having several battles with either each other or C’s GPS, we finally make it to Kezar Pavilion. (So small, we were expecting bigger.) We get there half an hour before the game and no one is warming up. See lots of familiar faces in the stands. Finally with about 20 minutes left the players start to trickle in. Can you say “casual?” We see the Stanford players and elbow each other several times for each player. “There’s Chiney,” we announce to each other as if neither of us has eyes. And she just looks like a baller, too. Figured out who Sara James and Toni Kokenis were (quick someone, email us and tell us how to pronounce her last name) to mark the three incoming freshmen. Then spy second year players Mikaela Ruef and Sarah Boothe. The other team is non-existent. Courtney Paris is listed on the other team’s roster, but she was not “In Town”. Too bad, C and R have never seen Courtney play live so we were bummed.

Not much warming up, which is a little bit of a shock to C and R as we are used to seeing the Stanford players go through elaborate warm up and stretching and drills before every Stanford game. Only Sarah Boothe takes the time to do elaborate stretching moves while most just shoot around. Finally the other team has at least five and we can begin.

When the game starts, C and R are very impressed with Sarah Boothe. She red-shirted last year and lost a lot of freshmen weight and re-sculpted her body. She was aggressive and hungry, calling for the ball, and running on fast breaks. Her teammates trusted her and got her the ball whenever they could. Opposite her was DeNasha Stallworth, Cal’s center, and although she had more meat on her and tried to push Sarah around, Sarah fought back and showed her a thing or two. Sarah was all business. Which made a thought pop into C and R’s head (yes, we do have them every once in a while). Sarah could be the X factor for us next year. Everyone knows we will be missing Jayne Appel and everyone knows who the established stars are and what they can do. Everyone will also look to Chiney to have an immediate impact. This preseason, none of the experts mentions Sarah Boothe and we think she is going to contribute greatly, and half way through the year everyone outside of Stanford will be scratching their heads saying, “Where did she come from?”

Sara James also impressed us. Played the guard spot, good court vision, had a nose for the ball and knifed in for offensive rebounds. She shot threes and when she missed, got her own rebound. Toni and Mikeala still look like they need more practice, especially at court vision and knowing where everyone was and when to shoot or pass. There were a few times Mikeala launched some threes but rebounders weren’t in place and to C and R, we thought she should have shown more patience.

And then there was Chiney. Okay, let’s just put it on the table and sum it up. The first half she played uninspired. And her defense was still in a high school mind set. Her team was playing man-to man, yet she would often leave her man and play the ball, counting on her athletic ability to either steal the pass to her man or get back in time if she can’t get to the ball. That ain’t going to happen in college and besides, Tara will beat that out of her when official Stanford practice starts.

And then sister Nneka came in. She arrived with Stanford buddies, Kayla Pedersen and Lindy LaRoque. They showed up close to the end of the first half (and yes, C and R fans, we went and sat behind them after half time to, um, you know, sit by them, shh.... don’t tell them.) So anyway, at the start of the second half Chiney was a different player! She had more intensity and you should have seen her go up and grab, and we mean snatch, a rebound out of the air. (And to the coach of the Golden State team, why was Chiney playing point guard in the second half?)

At one point, Nneka in the first row called out some coaching advice and Chiney stopped and made sure she got whatever it was Nneka pointed out. Maybe she needs that sisterly rivalry/admiration to get her going? Because before Sis Nneka came in, the rest of the Ogwumike family came in, Mom, Dad, all the other Ogwumike sisters who are going to go to Stanford for basketball and build an Ogwumike dynasty over the next 10 years. That wasn’t enough to get her going, it was Nneka. Wow, this should be an interesting year.

Other notes:
We were impressed with Eliza Peirre, who played on the opposite team and goes to Cal. She will be one to watch out for next year. We thought the PAC-10 refs were bad, but these refs were really bad. We think everyone one of the Stanford players attempted a three, the two guards of course, and Ruef, Chiney. Maybe not Sarah Boothe, although she brought out this great hook shot in the second half reminiscent of Brooke “The Hook” Smith from a few years ago. At least once the coach had all 5 Stanford players in, so that was cool. The Stanford team won, although we weren’t so interested in the score as checking out how everyone played. We were so excited we wanted to come back for play-offs next week but according to the schedule the Stanford team won the league and plays again August 7th. We hope to be there. Stay tuned.

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