Sunday, November 26, 2023

Undefeated in November

The Dynamic Duo (Brink & Iriafen) with Captain Marvel (Jump)

        Going into Sunday’s game with Albany, Stanford was the only team in the country with TWO players in the Top 25 rebounders (total and per game) and Double Doubles!  Both of those players, Cam and Kiki, were also in the Top 25 in at least one other category.  Cam is in the Top Five for Blocks (total and per game) and Free Throw percentage.  For Kiki it is Top 25 in points - she has more points than Page Beckers! They are indeed a dynamic duo — they excel and have each other’s back.  The pundits who ranked Stanford 15th in the country before the start of the season had no idea how fabulous Kiki Iriafen would be this year. 

        The CARD’s Dynamic Duo are joined by their fellow team Co-Captain Hannah Jump in marvel(ous) - as in “aren’t they….  Going into Sunday’s game Hannah needed only one three pointer to hit 300 for her career (she got it.).  Already the holder of Stanford’s record for threes in a single season (100), Hannah has moved past Candice Wiggins for second on the career list. She is closing in on Kianna Williams’ record of 311 and may get there before the start of PAC-12 play.  But, Jump’s value to the Stanford team is much more than her scoring. She has become a lockdown defender. This year she is also a vocal leader on the court - taking advantage of a 5th year’s experience to be almost a coach on the floor - and she rarely fouls.  She is so valuable that Tara is reluctant to take Hannah out of the game. Hannah almost always has the most minutes per game, as she did against Albany. Jump’s 35 minutes on the floor was nine minutes more than the next highest player. 

Topping 300 Threes!

Albany Played Hard: But the Cardinal Rocked!

        The Albany team was seriously over matched, but never quit playing hard.  They went down 11 to nothing in the opening minutes but fought back to get within five at 11 to 6.  That was as close as Albany got. 

        The star of the game was Cameron Brink with 21 points, 19 rebounds, four blocks, two assists, and a steal.  Three other players recorded double digit points. Jump had 16 (4 of 9 from three), while Iriafen and Bosgana had 11 apiece. Kiki just missed another double double, collecting nine rebounds in her 23 minutes on the floor.  The Cardinal dominated on the glass, grabbing 52 rebounds while Albany was only able to corral 23.  Elena and Nunu Agara each had seven rebounds, with the rest spread around among the other players.  All twelve of Stanford’s players spent at least 3 minutes on the court and, as usual, all made positive contributions.

The Band Gets in on the Fun!

Up Next

        The Cardinal’s next game is at 11:00 am on Friday.  That game is only on the Mountain West Network — a hard next work to find.  Following the San Diego game, the Cardinal have a game on Sunday with Gonzaga at 1:00 pm on ESPN+.  The Cardinal don’t return to Maples until December 15 for a game against Portland.  See you there.


1.  Does Kiki have any idea how good she is and how much potential she has?

Cam has said Kiki is the most improved player in the country.  Her improved strength is evident as she battles through pounding defenders to score and pull down rebounds. During the Duke game the TV commentators suggested that Kiki reminded them of the Ogwumikes and A’ja Wilson.  We wonder when people will say that somebody reminds them of Kiki Iriafen…

2.  Will Cam pass Catlin Clark as favorite for National Player of the Year!

At this point, the only place for Cameron Brink to improve is in avoiding silly fouls.  Her play and her leadership are outstanding…when will the world notice?

3. Which will be the last undefeated PAC-12 team?

Four of the previously undefeated PAC-12 teams went down during the Thanksgiving week. Only five teams remain unbeaten….

Saturday, November 25, 2023

A New Star in the Stanford Constellation

 Ball Dog Classic Win

        The most amusing moment of the Ball Dog Classic Thanksgiving Tournament came after Stanford’s victory in the Championship game.  Having briefly celebrated their victory with enthusiastic hugs, the Stanford team ran off the court towards the locker room as the PA announcer was reporting that a tournament “Big Wig” (I missed the name and have forgotten the title) would be presenting the tournament trophy and Most Outstanding Player award at center court. “Don’t you want your trophy,” the announcer asked, followed by the direction to bring the Stanford team back onto the court.  So, the team ran back to center court where team Co-Captain Hannah Jump accepted the championship trophy and Kiki Iriafen was announced as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.  

The Winner’s Trophy

       After being presented with her trophy, Kiki was asked if she had anything she wanted to say.  Her response says volumes about Iriafen and this year’s team.  “I love my team,” she loudly annnounced and was swallowed by a gleeful hug from her teammates.  That sequence underscores the joyful and unselfish character of the Cardinal team.  Kiki’s performance was outstanding; 44 points and 26 rebounds in two games including a career high of 30 points in the Championship game.  She not only scored around the rim, but hit seven midrange jumpers that frustrated Florida State’s aggressive “pack it in the paint” defense. Those outside the paint shots demonstrated Iriafen’s increased confidence in another aspect of her offensive arsenal.  Already named a National Player of the Week earlier this year, Kiki is clearly a Stanford STAR! 

        A case could have been made for Cameron Brink’s 46 points, 25 rebounds, and 8 blocks performance as the tournament’s most outstanding.  Yet, Brink’s boisterous embrace and obviously sincere pleasure when Iriafen’s recognition was announced provided more evidence of Cam’s leadership and the teams’ solidarity.  Cam has also been named a National Player of the Week once this year.  What is clear at this point is that Brink and Iriafen give Stanford one of the best (and arguably THE best) interior duos in college women’s basketball.  They have each other’s back whether it is because of foul trouble or having an off day, and sometimes they are just both awesome together. Last week it was Cam’s turn in the spotlight being named the PAC-12 player of the week. 

This time it was Kiki’s time for an award.  

Ball Dog Summary

        The games of the Ball Dog Tournament were Stanford’s second and third of four in seven days — a rugged schedule.  These two games, the first against Belmont and the second against 13th ranked Florida State, were preceded by a home game against Duke and will be followed by a home game against Albany. At this point it is three victories and one to go.  This tournament was also Stanford’s first foray outside the comfortable confines of Maples Pavilion.  An important step, but one that may explain some of the cold shooting Stanford experienced in the Belmont game when the CARD was held to a season low of 74 points on 38% shooting by Belmont’s aggressive defense. 

        Both Belmont and Florida State were relatively (or seriously) undersized, but had characteristics that often give Stanford trouble.  Belmont was aggressive on defense and feisty. Florida State was quick, feisty, and fast.  Both teams gave Stanford a battle particularly in the first two quarters, but Stanford’s talent, tenacity, conditioning, and coaching allowed the Cardinal to prevail with solid victories. 

Recapping the Florida State Game

        Because the only way to watch the Ball Dogs Classic was to be a Flo Hoops subscriber or attend in person, I have little to add to the commentary already written about the Belmont game. However, I did attend the Championship game, sitting in the third row, center court in a mostly empty arena. Most of the crowd were the family and friends of players. 

        The game was a good one. For unclear reasons, Florida State was the “Home” team for this game.  That meant the CARD broke out their black road uniforms for the first time this season.  They look imposing in black! 

        The first quarter was a total track meet as both teams raced up and down the floor at a furious pace, the ball flying around.  The teams combined to score 62 points! Stanford scored  28 points and still lost the quarter by six. The lead went back and forth a bit, but Florida State led by as much as seven points, winning the first quarter by six. Florida State managed a number of good looks and scrappy rebounds. They also had several possessions where the ball handler speeding down the court was never stopped, resulting in a layup. 

        Stanford’s defense tightened up in the second quarter and Florida State appeared to have worn themselves out a bit.  The CARD outscored Florida State 24 to 14 in that quarter taking a three point lead into the locker room at halftime.  The second half remained competitive although Stanford never trailed.  Florida State’s overall shooting percentage dropped from a blistering 53.6 percent in the first quarter to a still impressive but beatable 39 percent for the second.  Florida State’s second half shooting percentage was even worse, reaching a low of 31 percent in the fourth quarter as Stanford put the game away. Although the CARD didn’t shoot their normal high percentage from three or the free throw line, Stanford’s nine to three advantage in made three pointers along their 17 to 13 edge at the charity stripe account for most the 12 point difference in the game’s final score.

        Stanford’s unselfish play was on full display as the team recorded 31 assists on 37 made baskets.  Talana Lepolo and Brooke Demetre led with six each while Hannah and  Elena Bosgana added five apiece. Despite the impressive point and rebound totals for Cam and Kiki, 51 of Stanford’s 100 points were scored by players NOT named Iriafen or Brink, including Hannah Jump’s 17 and Elena Bosgana’s 16.  Stanford also won the battle of bench scoring with 14 points coming from players who didn’t start.  Bench players also contributed 13 of Stanford’s 55 rebounds.  Overall, all of the ten players who entered the game contributed at least one rebound, assist, or basket.  

        The Tree-oos continue to impress and improve.  In Tara’s symphony analogy for the basketball team, it seems as if each of them has a solo in difference games.  Chloe Clardy continues to develop and display her offensive and defensive quickness, an important asset against teams with quick “handsy” guards like Florida State.  Agara shows her value as an interior defender, especially when either Cam or Kiki are on the bench. Courtney Ogden’s “Swiss Army Knife” collection of abilities were more evident in the Belmont game, but remain an important asset to the team.  

Women’s Basketball Deserves Better Officials

        The chorus of media calls for improved officiating began with last year’s Final Four, but the need hasn’t diminished this year.  Beyond the longstanding tendency to allow small players to maul taller players with impunity, there have been a number of head scratcher calls in Stanford’s games this season — including the “over the back” call against Cameron Brink when she had front position. Some of the fouls called in this game were similarly strange.  In the game with Florida State there were also several out-of-bounds calls where officials awarded the ball to the player who had control of the ball when she was bumped by a player behind her who never actually touched the ball. Perhaps the rules have changed, but the last time I looked, that play is either a foul against the player doing the bumping or a turnover for the player who dropped the ball. At least this call appeared to be made consistently.  

        Of course, players need to manage their own reactions and not let strange calls disrupt their concentration.  But, the game and the fans deserve better.  One problem I see is that many of the referees are people I have been watching call games for decades.  As the women’s game has gotten faster and more physical in the last twenty years, it is hard to believe that twenty or even fifteen years has made the officials faster or more able to sustain the pace of the women’s game.


1.  Will Stanford remain unbeaten until at least the beginning of PAC-12 play?

One of the national media commentators recently wrote that the good news for the rest of the country is that pretty soon PAC-12 teams will start conference play.  That means half the PAC-12 teams will lose every night. Given how many PAC-12 teams are ranked in the Top 10 and the Top 25, it is hard to believe that any team can go unbeaten during PAC-12 play.  But, until then….?  Stanford has already passed what looked to be the toughest tests of the preseason….

2.  How many other PAC-12 teams will be unbeaten at the beginning of PAC-12 play?

Ditto the above comments.




Monday, November 20, 2023

The Captains Lead the Way!

 Another Test Passed!

        If you only look at the scoring summary from Stanford’s heavy weight battle with Duke you would think that the only players who mattered in Stanford’s win were the team Captains — Brink, Jump, and Iriafen. Those three accounted for 86.5% (71) of the Cardinal’s 82 points.  Cameron showed why she belongs in the National Player of the Year conversation with her career high 29 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks, 3 assists, and a steal!  Kiki Iriafen’s career high 27 points and 9 rebounds (with only two fouls) affirmed her status as a Stanford STAR.  Hannah Jump’s five three pointers and five rebounds only scratch the surface of her value to the team as a steadying presence and solid defender.  Jump was the only player on the court for almost all of the game’s full 45 minutes (44 minutes, 40 seconds)!  But, thinking that only the captains played an important role in this victory misses the critical contribution of every Stanford player who stepped onto the floor.  They all had positive entries on the stat sheet, whether it was a rebound, an assist, or a steal.

        The team’s captains clearly led the way, but Stanford doesn’t win without Brooke Demetre’s critical three pointer to tie the game near the end of regulation. Then there was Elena Bosgana’s offensive rebound and made free throw with 56 seconds left in OT that gave Stanford the lead!  How about Chloe Clardy’s defensive tip that led to Duke’s backcourt violation with only 47 seconds remaining in OT (the official scorer appears to have given her a steal on the play)?!!! Nunu Agara played solid, physical defense and was the assist leader for Stanford with four — including the assist leading to Brooke’s three point shot.  Talana Lepolo only scored two points and was only credited with three assists, three rebounds, and a steal — but her importance to the team showed as the offense went stagnant during the two minutes she was on the bench.  

Duke Presented a Challenge

        The Kira Lawson coached Duke team presented more of a challenge to the CARD than their record predicted.  Based on the record sheet, this game was predicted to go more like the first quarter when Stanford dominated 30 to 17.  Whether Duke’s performance reflected the energy of a team coming off an unexpected loss (to Davidson), the improvement a young team makes when they have good coaches, needing time to get their feet under them in their first nationally televised game, or some combination of those and other factors, Duke played tough as they fought back from 17 down early.  

        As an observer, it can be a bit scary when Stanford gets up too far in the early going against a good team — especially on the weekend of the Stanford-CAL football game.  Of course, this game demonstrated how important Cameron Brink is to the Cardinal.  When Cam had to sit due to foul trouble (and some of those foul calls were real “head scratchers”), the Stanford offense wasn’t as potent and the Duke offense got more diversified. But, what is gratifying is that this year’s team appears to know how to battle when things get rough.  Brink may have carried the team to victory, but nobody disappeared.  Every player did her job to have Cam’s back so that she could carry them on it. 

This is a Young Team!

           If you watched the ABC broadcast (either because you didn’t get to the game or because you go to the game and then go home to watch it again), you heard the Duke team described over and over again as a “young team” while they described Stanford as an “experienced team.”  It is an interesting difference in characterization.  Duke started as many upperclassmen as Stanford.  All three of Stanford’s freshmen played. Stanford’s point guard is a sophomore.  Kiki Iriafen, one of two juniors in the starting lineup, played sparingly in her freshman year and only averaged 11.1 minutes per game last year although she started about two-thirds of Stanford’s games.  Elena Bosgana, the other junior in the starting lineup, had never started and rarely got the opportunity to play when the game was on-the-line in prior years. Elena’s improvement from last year would be a big topic of conversation if Kiki’s performance leap wasn’t so dramatic. 

        The CARD isn’t going to win every game by 30 to 50 points so it is important to see that they can fight through adversity and come out on top.  They will be tested again with three games in five days between Wednesday and Sunday, with the biggest test being a probable game against #13 Florida State.  Stanford is currently 4 - 0 on the season.  Hopefully by this time next week they will be 7 - 0.


1. Can Cam break the record?

At the risk of jinxing things (but hey, she doens’t read this blog I’m sure), it is exciting to note that Cameron Brink’s streak of 72 consecutive free throws is closing in on the D.1 women’s record.  Quite the turn around from her early career showing at the free throw line.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Basketball is a TEAM Sport

 Basketball is a Team Sport and this is a FUN Team

        Stanford returned to the floor for their first game following the blowout win over then ranked  #7 Indiana.  They played a well coached Cal Poly San Luis Obispo team that is undersized but plays hard and is very physical, or as physical as a team with no player over 6’3” can be.  This game with could easily been a game where the CARD came out flat or unfocused — but this Cardinal team wasn’t flat or unfocused.  They were ready and intense.

        Cal Poly matched Stanford’s intensity for the first three plus minutes, pulling into an 8 - 8 tie at the 6:31 mark in the first quarter.  Cal Poly’s next score, a two point basket, came ten minutes later at the 6:28 mark in the SECOND quarter!  By that point, Stanford’s offense had flexed it prowess complementing the Cardinal’s defensive intensity.  The score was 29 to 10, and it never got closer than that.   Cal Poly did not match those first minutes’ eight points in either the second or third quarter. Stanford once again dominated on both ends of the floor. The Cardinal scored a season LOW 86 points (they had 87 against Hawaii) on 52.8% shooting while holding Cal Poly to 32 points on 22.7% shooting. The CARD also shot 44% from three while holding Cal Poly to 11.8%.  

        While Stanford’s offense was very good, it was the defense that particularly impressed.  None of Stanford’s eight players not named Brink, Jump, Iriafen, or Lepolo have extensive game experience. Yet the team consistently played tight defense, switching often and effectively on screens as players kept up defensive pressure on the ball. Again and again Cal Poly players attempted to drive into the post only to pass out as they faced the prospect of trying to score over Brink and Iriafen.  And, the CARD didn’t foul — or at least didn’t foul much.  Cal Poly NEVER got to the free throw line, while the Cardinal hit 19 of 23 their charity shots (a season low 82.6%).  There were, of course, some defensive errors and some offensive lapses— good thing because it’s too early in the season to be doing everything perfectly.  

Showing the Team’s Depth

        One important key to Stanford’s blistering offensive pace is that Tara substitutes early and often.  In this game every player in the “normal” ten deep rotation scored.  All 12 players had meaningful minutes, including Lauren Green’s team low four minutes during which she notched two rebounds and an assist.  None of the starters played for 20 minutes. By midway through the third quarter the starters were done for the night.

        Cal Poly’s game plan was clearly to make sure that Brink, Iriafen, and Jump didn’t beat them - a reasonable strategy against the CARD.  The Mustangs packed the paint aggressively, really beating up on the Stanford posts and played tight defense on Hannah Jump.  In past years stopping the Cardinal’s top players had a reasonable chance of beating Stanford. But, this year’s team, playing with unselfish enthusiasm, simply takes what the defense gives them. They truly embody the phrase, basketball is a team sport. 

        Elena Bosgana led the scoring with 15 points while also collecting seven rebounds, two assists, and a steal with zero turnovers.  The nice stat line earned her a seat in the post game press conference.  Stanford’s three point shooting continued to sizzle with 11 made threes by five different players. Jzaniya Harriel led the three point shooting with a career high four made threes as part of her career high 14 points. She was the team’s second leading scorer for the night, with one more point than Kiki Iriafen’s 13. Jzaniya also grabbed four rebounds, had two assists, three steals and a block. She appears to have fully recovered from the effects of her freshman year accident which interrupted her development. Courtney Ogden had three of Stanford’s 11 three pointers as part of her 10 points.  While Nunu Agara continued her solid play, notching nine points on four shots from the floor, and hitting both her free throws.  Agara has already been called out by national media as one of the top five freshman players coming off the bench. 

Elena refuels

Duke and National TV up Next!

        Stanford’s next game will be nationally televised on ABC Sunday at noon! Not only will that give East Coast sports writers a chance to see the CARD without staying up late, it means the game broadcast probably won’t be moved to accommodate a pickle ball match as happened with our game against Indiana.  Duke’s coach, Kira Lawson is in her third full year as the Blue Devils’ coach.  This is a matchup we will see again as Duke is part of the ACC, Stanford’s new conference starting next year.

        Before the Cal Poly game, Associate Head Coach Kate Paye suggested that Cal Poly plays a similar style to the Duke team.  If so, this game an excellent tune-up for Sunday’s matchup.  Duke will be coming in with a chip on their shoulder after losing a close game to Davidson.  The Cardinal will need to be ready!

Autograph Time!

        Following the game the three freshman players came out for the first of what was announced as five autograph sessions.  Stanford provided a nice team photo array that players signed. Unfortunately, because the team’s website hasn’t started displaying the promotions for this year’s Stanford team, we don’t know when those remaining sessions will be held, but it is a nice treat for fans. 

Agara, Ogden, and Clardy get their first experience doing autographs


1.  Can Stanford keep up its high scoring offense?

Three games into the season Stanford is averaging almost 90 points per game and shooting over 50% from the floor. This team is consistently running up the floor following rebounds and the opponents made baskets.  If a point guard starts to walk the ball up the floor calls from the coaches to “RUN” ring out from the bench.   While we expect the CARD to continue running, it remains to be seen whether they can continue hitting over 50% from the floor and 87.9% from the free throw line.

2.  Will the CARD hit the century mark in a game?

So far Stanford’s production has seriously slowed in the fourth quarter with inexperienced players getting most if not all of the minutes.  In the Cardinal’s first two games, that lineup change resulted in the opposing team out scoring the CARD in the fourth.  Against Cal Poly, the reserves won the quarter, but only barely.  At what point will they have gained enough experience to maintain the Cardinal’s scoring pace and allow the team to hit the century mark?

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Early Test: Passed with Flying Colors!

 “We’re Still Here!”

        Stanford, ranked by the pundits as the 15th or 16th team in the country, took on 9th ranked Big Ten Indiana in a nationally televised game (or at least nationally televised once the pickle ball match was over).  It was billed as a battle of ranked teams and a battle of pre-season All Americans.  Instead it was what Indiana Coach Terri Moren called “an old fashioned butt kicking.”  

        The Cardinal dominated, winning 96 to 64 in a game that wasn’t as close as the lopsided final score.  Stanford opened up an 11 point lead in the first quarter and never looked back, leading by 28 at halftime and 33 after three quarters. Stanford led in almost every statistical category: out shooting Indiana 50% to 34.9%  overall and 37.9% to 15.6% from three, out rebounding Indiana 50 to 27, and recording 6 blocks to Indiana’s 2.  The CARD came up slightly short on free throw shooting — hitting “only” 13 of 15 (87%) while Indiana hit 15 of 16.  

        Indiana (and the Big Ten generally) may be somewhat over rated, but this game provided compelling evidence that Stanford is seriously UNDER rated.  It seems, as was pointed out previously in this Blog, that folks were focused on what Stanford lost and not what the CARD had back and added.  Obviously, as Kiki Iriafen, who recorded her second double-double (20 points, 11 rebounds) of the seasons first two games, put it, “We’re still here.”  Speaking of Kiki, and I suspect we will be often this year, she is showing that, as predicted, she belongs in the constellation of Cardinal stars!!! Cameron Brink calls her the most improved player in the country. Iriafen is delivering on the promise her talents have long suggested.  She is playing with strength and confidence: driving to the basket, hitting from the top of the key, and finishing at the rim on what the ESPN announcers called “weight room buckets” — the shots through contact you only complete if you have strength.  

Battle of the All Americans

        Before the season started, some pundits asked whether Cameron Brink could have the kind of season that would put her firmly in the National Player of the Year conversation.  Before this game, some of those pundits suggested that a showdown between two pre-season All American post players was a significant measuring stick.  The stat lines speak for themselves. In less than 28 minutes on the floor Brink scored 20 points on 6 of 11 shooting, going 2 of 3 from the three point line and 6 of 6 from the free throw line, grabbed 17 rebounds, and delivering 4 blocks.  Holmes played almost 32 minutes, scored 8 points on 3 of 12 shooting, collected 2 rebounds, and had one block.  Notably, Cameron’s first block of the game was the 300th of her Stanford record setting career.  Going back to last season, Brink has now hit 58 free throws in a row.  She has transformed herself from a player whose trips to the line filled Stanford fans with concern to a player whose free throw shooting is virtually automatic. IMPRESSIVE!!! It demonstrates her work ethic as much as it shows her immense talent.  

Running Hard and Raining Threes

        In her remarks to season ticket holders before the season, Coach VanDerveer said that this year’s team was going to “play with pace” and shoot a lot of threes.  Playing with pace means a lot of up and down the floor and requires both conditioning and a deep bench.  Check!  So far Stanford’s LOWEST point total is the 87 points the CARD scored in their dominating win against the University of Hawaii — that comes out to more than 2 points a minute!  Of course it is easier to score two points a minute when a team is getting those points three at a time.  Against Indiana nine different players attempted Stanford’s 29 three point shots with seven of those players hitting 50% or better from three.  In her post game comments, Indiana’ coach expressed dismay that so many Stanford players were hitting from three.  In the past teams have basically thought that shutting down Hannah Jump and maybe Brooke Demetre would end Stanford’s three point threat. Not anymore!  Five of Stanford’s 29 three point attempts (and three of the 3 point makes) came from POST players!  Let it RAIN!

The Tree-o’s Continue to Impress

        Nunu Agara continues to impress.  In this game she was Stanford’s third leading scorer with 13 points on 5 of 9 shooting from the floor and 2 for 2 from the free throw line.  She was also the third leading rebounder although her four rebounds stand out less than her 13 points. In addition to demonstrating impressive “bumper car” strength around the basket, Nunu has great body control and “hang time.”  Furthermore, Agara’s five made baskets included a three pointer and a made basket from the top of the key!  Double digit scoring in her first two games as a college player is exciting — and she plays defense!  Agara’s fellow freshmen are also pulling their weight and showing improvement.  They are appear to be adjusting well to the college game and it will be fun to see how much better they all are by the end of the season.


1.  Can this team avoid a let down?

The question for this week was how would Stanford do against a top opponent?  We got our first answer — just fine thank you.  But, can they keep it going? One of the bugaboos for Stanford (and lots of other teams) has been the problem of falling in a “trap games” — the game against a less impressive opponent that follows a big win against a top team.  Can this edition of the CARD avoid that against Cal Poly on Thursday night? I’m pretty sure they can — but since I sit in the stands my opinion isn’t going to get it done…Guess we’ll need to show up Thursday night at 7 pm to find out!

2.  How much better will they get?

Tara said in the postgame “behind the bench” talk that there are things to fix and room for improvement.  That is true — but it leaves us wondering, how good will this team be by the end of the year?  Pretty darn good, I think!

Juniors Iriafen and Demetre listening to the coach

Thursday, November 9, 2023

First Game - First Win

 Kiki Showed the Way

Iriafen gives postgame interview

        Stanford opened the official season with an 87 to 40 win over the University of Hawaii. This year’s edition of the Cardinal was dominant from the start — taking a 24 to 12 lead in the first quarter and never being seriously challenged after that.  None of the starting five played in the 4th quarter and the starters mostly sat on the bench for the whole second half.  
        The Card was led by Kiki Iriafen.  She demonstrated the talent and tenacity that has led us to believe she will be Stanford’s next shinning star in the Brink-Jump constellation.  She scored a career best (so far) 23 points, picking up a double-double with 13 rebounds while only playing 24 minutes.  Those 23 points were remarkably efficient; Kiki was 10 of 14 from the floor (over 71%) and 3 for 3 at the free throw line.  Although Stanford out rebounded Hawaii 60 to 18, rebounding was mostly a team effort with every member of the Cardinal snagging at least one rebound while Iriafen was the team’s only double digit rebounder. Kiki was joined in double figure scoring by freshman Nunu Agara with 18 points, Brooke Demetre with 12, and Elena Bosgana with 10.  

Expectations Confirmed

        The trends and expectations that started from the open practice continue to play out.  We expected the Cardinal to hit their free throws — they hit 19 of 20.  We expected the Card to shoot a lot of three pointers - 17 of the teams 66 shots (over 25%) were from three.  We expected that if teams guarded the three point line aggressively, the Card’s interior would make them pay - and they did.  Over 56% of Stanford’s 87 points were scored by the Cardinals three post players — Iriafen, Brink, and Agara.  Additionally, as defenders harassed her at the three point line, Hannah Jumped showed her versatility by hitting 60% on her drives to the basket. Finally, we expected the frosh TREE-OS to see a lot of action — and they did.  Of course, in this game everybody played at least four minutes and Stanford had 10 players rack up double digit minutes. Nonetheless, it is clear that for now Stanford is using a 10 player rotation with the freshmen fully embedded in that rotation.  

One Answer

        At this point it does appear that Nunu Agara is this year’s “pleasant surprise.”  She has looked poised and talented — appearing to be a solid third option in the paint.  Agara has strength and agile moves down low while also showing the ability to hit most shots she tries from within six to eight feet from the basket. Her 18 points are the most points scored by a freshman in a season opener since Candace Wiggins — and Tara says Nunu can hit from three! The other two freshmen have shown talent and flashes of brilliance, but they look like freshmen.  The flashes are often followed by freshman mistakes.  Agara has shown the sort of consistency that causes Tara to say of her, “she doesn’t look like a freshman, she looks like a basketball player.”


1. How will this team do against stronger opponents?
        Thus far we have seen Stanford play against two teams.  Dominican had some quick players, but they lacked the size to play against the Cardinal.  Hawaii had size — three players listed at 6’4” — but they weren’t quick enough to cause real problems.  None of Hawaii’s players reached double figure scoring and the Hawaii team shot below 24% overall and from three.  By contrast, six of the seven Stanford players who scored hit 50% or more of their shots.  So, we can be fairly confident that against teams that lack size or quickness, this year’s Cardinal will dominate.  But, the question remains, how will they do against teams with both size and quickness?  We should get our first answer to that question on Sunday when Stanford takes on 9th ranked Indiana at 2:00 pm.

2. Can the team stay healthy?
        The next question/concern is can this team stay healthy?  While last year’s team had so much (too much?) talent that they could truly have a “next player up” attitude towards injury or foul trouble, this year’s team probably doesn’t.  It was concerning to see Cameron Brink’s back being worked on from the bench after she asked to be substituted out in the second quarter.  She obviously wasn’t her normal self — missing six of her eight shots from the floor.  It was frightening to see Kiki Iriafen being helped off the floor from the bench — although she later confirmed that it was just a cramp.  It is hard to imagine this year’s team being successful without Brink, Iriafen or Jump.  

Thursday, November 2, 2023


 The Exhibition


        Webster defines an exhibition as “a public showing (as of…athletic skill.)”  That is certainly what the Stanford Women’s Basketball team provided for fans on November 1.  The 2023-24 version of the Cardinal hit the century mark well before the end of the 3rd quarter, coasting to a 126 to 53 victory over Division 2 Dominican University that wasn’t as close as the final score suggests.  Every player on the team had the chance to display her skill for at least eight minutes and 60 of the teams 126 points were scored by bench players!  Of course, things will undoubtedly be harder for the Cardinal once the season begins and they play against Division 1 teams, but the display was impressive nonetheless. 

Expectations Confirmed

Celebrating the win

        We have expected Cameron Brink and Hannah Jump to be special — and they provided reassurance that we won’t be disappointed.  Despite taking a shot to the face and playing only 14 minutes, Cam scored 10 points, was perfect from the free throw line, had four blocks, and six rebounds, and two assists. Hannah Jump went 3 of 4 from beyond the arc and 5 of 6 overall with three assists, one steal, and zero turnovers in just under 13 minutes on the floor.

        All indications have been that this year’s Card team will make it rain three pointers and the exhibition continued that narrative.  Stanford shot 46% from 3 point range for the game.  Five different players: Jump, Elena Bosgana, Talana Lepolo, Jzaniya Harriel, and Courtney Ogden, hit over 50% of their three point attempts!  Of course, things will undoubtedly be harder for the Cardinal once the season begins and they play against Division 1 teams, but the display was impressive nonetheless.  

        For this game at least, free throws were not a problem.  Stanford players only missed two of their 17 opportunities at the charity stripe.  Given the number of games in recent years where missed free throws have been the difference between a win and a loss, this performance with comforting.

This is a talented team

        The pundits who have ranked the CARD 15th or 16th in the country suggest that beyond Brink and Jump, this team doesn’t have much.  This exhibition suggests otherwise.  There are a number of talented players on this team.  And, perhaps more importantly, the exhibition gave us a chance to see that this is a talented TEAM!  There was joy and evident camaraderie among the players — this group likes playing together.  The “senior” leaders are special — but the rest of the team is pretty darn good and may well be “special” by the time they are done.  That “rest of the team” includes last year’s surprise — point guard Talana Lepolo who started her college career with 11 assists and no turnovers.  Talana looked comfortable and ready to lead the team in her 13 minutes on the floor - scoring 5 points on 2 of 3 shooting, grabbing a rebound and making one assist while having zero turnovers.

The Next Leaders

        The junior class showed up and showed that they can be leaders.  Kiki Iriafin and Elena Bosgana led the team in scoring with 19 points each.  Kiki also had 14 rebounds for a nifty double-double despite playing less than 17 minutes.  In addition to scoring 19 points in her first career start, Elena Bosgana had five rebounds, four assists, and three steals! A very nice stat line — with the team leading four assists being perhaps the most impressive number — it’s an indication that this is a team where players are willing to share the ball. Brooke Demetre struggled with her shot, but pulled down 12 rebounds along with two assists and two steals, a nice way to help a team win when your shot isn’t falling.  The other “junior,” redshirt sophomore Jzaniya Harriel scored 13 points, 2 of 3 from beyond the arc, 5 of 8 overall, with 3 steals, two rebounds, and an assist.

Kiki Iriafen has reasons to smile

        The Tree-o’s are for real!  Nunu Agara and Courtney Ogden both scored 16 points, right behind Kiki and Elena for the team lead.  Agara continues to impress with her strength inside — she isn’t going to get pushed around — but she also demonstrated some shooting touch from the middle of the lane.  Ogden had 10 rebounds to give her a double-double, but four of them came in one almost humorous sequence where she missed on four straight attempts at a “bunny” — persevering with rebounds until finally successful on the shot.  It seems very likely that Courtney will have a number of more legitimate double-double’s before her career is over. 
The third Tree-o, Chloe Clardy scored eight points on 2 of 5 shooting and a perfect 4 for 4 from the line.  Like Harriel, Chloe showed good point guard skills, providing some assurance that Talana won’t need to be an “iron-woman” this year. 
Ogden’s first chance to throw a victory ball!

Questions and maybe Answers

1. How will the team do against stronger opponents?

Last year’s edition of the Cardinal blew out less talented teams but often struggled against more evenly matched teams.  Those are the games where coaching, leadership, and chemistry make the difference.  We know Stanford has the coaching — but do we have the leadership and team chemistry.  It looks like it — but the final answer is a few months away….

2. How many times will multiple players hit double-doubles in the same game?

Last year Cam was almost a double-double machine, with a triple-double thrown in for good measure. On Wednesday Kiki and Courtney had double-doubles.  Several other players had stat lines that suggest a double-double is possible.  So — how often will there be multiple double-doubles for this team — proving that the CARD isn’t just Cam and the Cammets?

3.  Are we closer to knowing who is this year’s pleasant surprise? 

There are at least four players I could nominate — but let’s wait a while to say for sure….


Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Season Begins Soon

 Time to Go!!!!

        Fans of Stanford women’s basketball had two chances to see the 2023-24 team in action before their season opening exhibition against Dominican, Wednesday, November 1. First there was an open practice followed by a student athlete panel and a reception on Monday night.  Then, season ticket holders were invited to a scrimmage on Saturday morning.  

   Impressions from the Open Practice

        Watching a practice is always interesting because it is an opportunity to see coaching/teaching in action.  The whistle blows to allow players to get instruction, especially on how to move in the offense.  Knowing what is “supposed to happen” can be helpful to a fan when watching a game — seeing what the opposing team is doing or not doing to prevent Stanford’s offense from flowing….One “bonus” at the practice was seeing new coach Erica “Bird” MaCall back in action a part of the “scout” team.  Having a coach just a season removed from playing in the WNBA must be an inspiration for the team.

        Cameron Brink didn’t participate in the practice as she was still nursing an ankle injury, although it appeared to be healed. Given how critical Cam will be for this team, that made it a bit harder to assess the team. However, three things were clear — this team is going to shoot a lot of threes, Tara cares about free throws, and the three freshmen are going to see playing time.  During the practice scrimmage action, six different players connected on three point shots, several of them on multiple threes. Towards the end of practice, one of the teams’ timed drills had two players at each of the gym’s six baskets shooting three pointers.  As Kiki Iriafin said in the post practice interview panel, not all the players have the “green light” to shoot threes but they are all working on getting there. Another drill had all the players shooting free throws, most went through the net.  

        Red and White or Black and Gray?

        With Stanford only going 12 deep this year dividing the team for a scrimmage, as Tara has done in previous years, wasn’t really an option.  So, this time it was the Gray team — 10 of the teams 12 players, against the Black team — the full quota of male practice players plus scholarship athletes Lauren Green and Stavi Papadaki.  Coach “Bird” had the “Black” team all by herself while the team’s other four coaches directed the “Gray” team.  

        It was an exciting game!  Almost too exciting as Coach McCall’s team led for much of the game, several times by double digit margins.  However, the ten players who are likely to see the most action for this year’s Cardinal fought back to take leads at end of each half — including a big lead by the game’s end.  The scoreboard wasn’t tracking individual player stats, but as expected, there were THREES!  Hannah, Talana, Cameron, Brooke, and Elena were among the many successful three point shooters.  Laureen Green’s multiple threes were part of her rather impressive offensive output and Stavi also hit from three.  It was good to see that Cameron Brink is Cameron Brink!  That is to say, watching Brink move around the rim was almost like watching poetry.  She has so many moves and such amazing body control.  And, she continues to be almost automatic at the free throw line.


        The scrimmage confirmed all of my impressions from the open practice.  This team is going to shoot a lot of threes.  There are multiple players who are legitimate three point threats!  So, if teams decide to cover Hannah Jump like a second skin, the three pointers will continue to fall.  And, if opposing coaches decide to just blanket the three point line, Cameron Brink, Kiki Iriafin, and freshman Nunu Agara will make them pay.  Agara was impressive with her almost bumper car moves down low — she has the strength to move opposing players our ot the way as she heads for the rim.  As the game progressed, Iriafen also showed a willingness to bang inside but without picking up the offensive foul calls she often received last season.

        This team should do well from charity stripe. There weren’t a ton of foul calls in the scrimmage, but when they went to the line, players responded well.  Not only did Cam continue to hit her foul shots, but free throw misses were not really on the menu for any of the players. My memory isn’t perfect, but I don’t recall seeing a Cardinal player miss from the free throw line.  

        The freshmen are going to see plenty of action.  Tara reports that the three freshmen have given themselves the name, Treeos!  I don’t want to jink things, but I will note that the last time we heard that a freshman class gave themselves a name, they also ended up with a National Championship (although that was a year later).       

How good will this team be?

        Pundits rank this year’s version of the Cardinal as the 15th or 16th best team in the country, the 3rd best in the PAC-12.  That is the lowest ranking for a Stanford team in years.  But, I think the pundits are focused on what the Cardinal have lost from last year — not on what they have.  It’s true that the Card lost a first and a third round WNBA draft pick - not to mention the amazing Fran Belibi - to graduation, and lost Betts, Nivar and Emma-Nnopu to the transfer portal.  That is a boat load of talent.  But, focusing on what was lost misses what Stanford has back and has added.

        Let’s start with Cameron Brink, listed as 6’4’’  — last year’s WBCA Defensive Player of the Year, a regular on the All American list.  Brink shot blocking total was second in the country to graduated senior Brooke Flowers last season — making Cam the leading shot blocker among returning players.  She hit roughly 85% of her free throws last season and a more than respectable percentage of her shots from the floor.  This summer Cam picked up a Gold Medal with USA Basketball playing 3x3, an experience that Tara says helped make her a better three point shooter.  Beyond that, Cam is a fierce competitor and a great teammate. I wouldn’t count out a team being led by Cameron Brink.

        The team’s other “senior” leader is 5th year player Hannah Jump.  Coach VanDerveer describes Hannah’s return for a fifth year as “what lets me sleep at night.”  Not only did Hannah set the Stanford single season record for three pointers made last year, with 100, but she hit those three pointers at a higher percentage (44%) than Catlin Clarke (39%). In fact only one player in the country (Iona’s Kate Mager) scored double digit threes with a higher percentage of accuracy than Hannah.  What may be the most impressive part of Hannah’s leadership is her work ethic.  She is the first person in the gym and the last person to leave.  It is that work ethic that has transformed Hannah from a three point specialist to a three level scorer and from a defensive liability to a lockdown defender.  Hannah’s three level scoring was on full display during the scrimmage as she made multiple baskets from drives to the rim including several beautiful teardrop buckets over taller defenders.

        Junior Kiki Iriafen is the team’s third captain.  That is a sign that her teammates recognize her importance to this year’s team — and a recognition of her enthusiastic and unselfish character.  Kiki’s stat line from last year makes it clear that, if she can clean up the foul trouble that hobbled her last year, she will be a major contributor to this team’s success.  Her performance during the preseason scrimmage suggests that she is ready.

        Sophomore point guard Talana Lepolo, last year’s biggest surprise, returns after gaining experience with USA Basketball where she won a Gold Medal with the Under-19 team. Talana’s play in the scrimmage was solid, including a timely three pointer and some nice passes.  This year’s team is returning to some of their older offensive sets — including the triangle offense.  It will be interesting to see how well Talana manages the new looks — as a team’s success depends heavily on the point guard play.

        In addition to Kiki, Stanford’s juniors are Brooke Demetre and Elena Bosgana.  Both have the potential to be elite level three point shooters and great scorers at all levels.  Brooke has shown that she can be a go-to-scorer several times in her career — including against South Florida in her freshman season and against Gonzaga last year when she hit five threes!  Elena’s shooting percentages are slightly better than Brooke’s — which is somewhat remarkable since Tara describes her as a player who has never seen a shot she didn’t want to take.  What neither has shown yet is the ability to be a lockdown defender — something they will need to do if either wants to be the team’s fifth starter.

 Next Up: The Exhibition Game

        NCAA regulations allow teams to schedule one official exhibition game.  Stanford’s will be Wednesday, November 1st against Dominican.  After that the regular season starts, with Stanford playing two nationally televised games in November — November 12th against 9th ranked Indiana and November 19th against a Duke team that will be fresh off an exhibition game against the USA National team.


Who will be the Fifth Starter?

      It seems pretty clear that at least for the foreseeable future, this year’s starters will include Captains Brink, Jump, and Iriafen along with point guard Lepolo.  It also seems extremely likely that the fifth starter — again for the foreseeable future, will be either Demetre or Bosgana.  Harriel, a redshirt sophomore, has served primarily as a backup point guard and may well play that role again this year.  The presence of sophomores Green and Papadaki on the “Scout” squad for the scrimmage strongly suggests that neither is likely to break into the starting lineup (although Green’s play suggests that she is another individual for whom hard work can pay big benefits). That leaves the freshmen and, well, they are freshmen.  While it is likely that Agara’s strength under the basket will earn her key minutes as a reserve, she is highly unlikely to replace either Iriafen or Brink in the starting lineup. The situation is less clear for the other talented members of the Treeos, Clardy and Ogden.  The 6’1” Ogden was the highest rated of the Stanford freshmen (10th nationally by Hoopgurlz) and maybe the strongest candidate to break into the starting lineup by the end of the season.  Clardy is also a talented player but at 5’9” is more likely to be slotted into the point guard role, competing with Harriel for the job of backup to Lepolo.  

Who will be the biggest surprise?

        Most years there is at least one player, either a returning player whose game has take a huge leap or an incoming freshman whose performance is much better than the pundits predicted, who surprises fans and perhaps even coaches.  I don’t yet know who that player will be — that’s why we call it a surprise.  Stay tuned.  Nominations accepted…. 

Undefeated in November

The Dynamic Duo (Brink & Iriafen) with Captain Marvel (Jump)          Going into Sunday’s game with Albany, Stanford was the only team i...