Women's Basketball 2002-03 Season Outlook
Oct. 28, 2002
The Stanford women's basketball program made its presence felt in 2001-02 by racking up 32 wins, moving as high as No. 2 in the national rankings and going 18-0 in the Pacific-10 Conference.
With eight letterwinners back, including National Player of the Year candidate Nicole Powell, the Cardinal figures to be among the nation's elite again this season.
'We want to build on last year's success,' Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. 'I think that our team got a taste of what it feels like to play well, and be at the top. We know we can compete with anyone and we want to continue that and build on it.'
Not only is the Cardinal present bright, but the future is as well. Stanford does not have a senior on its 2002-03 roster, and also welcomes a talented four-player freshman class.
'This is a young team in some ways, but also an experienced team because all four of our sophomores made great contributions as freshmen. We're going to be counting on a lot of young people to contribute, but we have a very fundamentally sound freshman class that is ready for college basketball.'
The Cardinal will be built around Powell, a 6-foot-2 junior, who was a Naismith National Player of the Year Finalist and Kodak First Team All-American last season. After just two seasons, Powell ranks among the top 15 on Stanford's career assist and rebound list and has already surpassed 1,000 career points.
Powell will be joined by a pair of redshirt sophomores - point guard Susan King and center Chelsea Trotter - who will make big impacts this season. Pac-10 All-Freshman Team selections Kelley Suminski and T'Nae Thiel also return, as do junior Katie Denny and sophomores Sebnem Kimyacioglu and Azella Perryman.
The Cardinal's talented freshman class includes two players who won state player of the year honors a year ago - Eziamaka Okafor (Missouri) and Krista Rappahahn (Connecticut) - as well as highly touted Clare Bodensteiner and Shelley Nweke.
This strong nucleus will face a difficult schedule that includes national powers Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Rutgers, as well as a challenging Pac-10 schedule.
'Every year we try to play a very competitive non-conference schedule, and this year it seems like every game will be a battle. I think a difficult non-conference schedule gets you ready for conference play and the NCAA Tournament.
'The Pac-10 is always extremely competitive, and we know that everyone always plays well against us. We have to come to play every night.'
Stanford also hopes there truly is no place like home in the post-season. After the Pacific-10 Conference Tournament in San Jose, the Cardinal is scheduled to host both NCAA Subregional and NCAA West Regional play at Maples Pavilion.
'It's great to be hosting the first two weekends of the tournament. I know it's very exciting for the players, and it's very exciting for me.'
Here is a position-by-position look at the 2002-03 roster:
'We've gone from famine to feast,' VanDerveer said. 'We could easily be playing a three-guard lineup.'
After key injuries left Stanford thin in the backcourt each of the past two seasons, a quartet of young guards give the Cardinal a deep and talented backcourt in 2002-03.
Redshirt sophomore Susan King enters the campaign at 100 percent after missing most of the last two seasons with knee injuries. When healthy, King has proven she is one of the top young guards in the nation. She owns career averages of 9.9 points and 4.6 assists, and is best known for a dominant 21-point, 5-assist performance at Tennessee as a freshman.
'We're a different team with Susan,' VanDerveer said. 'She brings so much to our team. She is the quickest player on our roster, and mentally I don't know if there is anyone tougher than Susan. We can also depend on her to play great defense. I think our team is in really good shape when she's out there.'
Suminski was one of the top 3-point shooters in the country last season, connecting on a Pac-10 leading 46.3 (38-of-82) percent of her shots from beyond the arc. She started 27 games at the point, and averaged 7.6 points and 2.7 assists while also shooting 88.0 (73-of-83) percent from the foul line. In addition, the 2001-02 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team selection spent the off-season competing in the 2002 USA Basketball Women's National Team Trials.
'Kelley is a real special player. She had an outstanding freshman year although she was asked to play a different position. She played the '2' (off-guard) all the way through high school, but was moved to the '1' (point guard) last year and did a great job. Kelley is a warrior - she is someone you can depend on to always give her very best effort. She is a real clutch player.'
Kimyacioglu gave the Cardinal another threat from behind the arc as she made 48.9 (23-of-47) percent of her shots from 3-point range in Pac-10 play and 42.4 (third in the Pac-10; 42-of-99) percent overall. The product of nearby Mountain View came on in the second half of the season, and finished with averages of 5.9 points, 2.2 assists and 2.0 rebounds.
'Sebnem likes to shoot, and she does it very well. She is a big, physical guard who can help us on the boards and will work hard defensively. She is going to really benefit from having point guards like Susan and Clare to set her up.'
Freshman Clare Bodensteiner, a 5-foot-9 product of Rupert, Idaho, rounds out the group and is expected to make an immediate impact. The athletic freshman can score from the inside or outside, and is a solid defender and rebounder. Bodensteiner's high school team (Minico) won just two games in her freshman season, but just two years later, she led the squad to its first conference championship in 18 seasons.
'I can't wait to coach Clare. She really wants our team to be successful, and will do whatever we need her to do. Clare is a big guard who can score. She loves to push the ball in transition, and can also shoot the 3-pointer. She is a great addition to our program.'
As a sophomore last season, Nicole Powell was a Naismith National Player of the Year Finalist, a Kodak First Team All-American and the Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year. Powell, who is one of the favorites for 2002-03 National Player of the Year honors, came to Stanford as a forward and will likely return to that slot this year after playing in the backcourt for most of the last two seasons because of injuries to point guard Susan King.
'We're gong to play Nicole closer to the basket. I think she will be more like a point forward or point center this year than a point guard. She's still going to bring the ball up in transition, because she has the ability to rebound and just go with it.'
After a fantastic freshman season, Powell had no trouble avoiding a sophomore slump in 2001-02. She averaged 16.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game, and ranked among the top six in the Pac-10 in nine of a possible 12 statistical categories, including assists (1st), total rebounding (1st), 3-point percentage (4th, 42.0), scoring (6th), field goal percentage (6th, 49.0) and free throw percentage (6th, 82.6). She recorded five triple-doubles, including back-to-back triple-doubles against Weber State and Tulane in NCAA Subregional play, and 10 double-doubles. Powell also set Stanford single game (21) and single season (327) rebounding records in 2001-02, in addition to becoming the first player in Pac-10 history (male or female) to lead the conference in rebounding and assists in the same season.
'Nicole Powell is coming off of a fabulous sophomore year. Nicole is as talented as any player in the country. She is incredibly versatile with her ability to handle the ball, post up and rebound. To lead the conference in assists and rebounding for basically the whole year is incredible.'
Joining Powell on the wings are a pair of returners who expect to see increased minutes this year - junior Katie Denny and sophomore Azella Perryman - as well as freshmen Eziamaka Okafor and Krista Rappahahn.
Denny, who saw increased playing time as a sophomore, is a great athlete with excellent shooting range. The hard-working, energetic player from nearby Pacific Grove played behind Lindsey Yamasaki and Lauren St. Clair the last two seasons, but figures to see increased playing time since both have graduated. She averaged 2.2 points in 24 appearances off the bench last season.
'This year is a great opportunity for Katie. She has played behind some excellent players at her position the last two years, and now it's her turn. Katie runs the floor well, and gives us a lot of energy. We need Katie to step up and really contribute.'
Perryman, who could also see minutes in the paint, showed great improvement during her freshman campaign. She became a significant contributor in Pacific-10 Conference play, and finished the year averaging 3.8 points and 3.6 rebounds. Perryman recorded a pair of double-doubles last season, and also turned in a 17-point, 9-rebound effort in the Cardinal's Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinal win over UCLA.
'Azella has a great upside, and I see her being a major contributor this year. She gained a lot of valuable experience last year and really helped on the boards. She is a very athletic player who can really help our team.'
The 6-foot-0 Okafor is a physical player that gives the Cardinal an additional presence both on the wings and in the paint. She is recovering from a knee injury sustained in the summer, and may be ready by mid-season. Okafor averaged 22.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.5 steals last season at Rolla High School, and was named the 2001-02 Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year.
'The key will be Eziamaka's ability to get healthy. She is a strong, physical player who can both score and rebound. She can really add a great presence to our team. We're very anxious to have her join us.'
Rappahahn, who was the Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year last season, guided the Norwich Free Academy to a 106-2 record during her illustrious high school career. The 6-foot-0 guard averaged 23.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 3.0 assists last season, and finished her career with over 2,000 points. She is a hard working, disciplined player who will step in and be an immediate factor for the Cardinal in 2002-03.
'We're very excited about Krista. She shoots the ball very well from the outside, and also has the ability to post up inside. She is a very smart player who knows how to win after coming from a very successful high school program. I think Krista is going to do very well for us.'
The key inside will be the return of 6-foot-3 redshirt sophomore Chelsea Trotter, who sat out the 2001-02 season with chronic pain in both knees. As a freshman, Trotter showed signs of a bright future ahead by averaging 3.9 points and 2.7 rebounds, in addition to breaking into the starting lineup at the end of the year.
'We'll be in very good shape if Chelsea can stay healthy and contribute for us inside. She worked really hard in her redshirt year to improve her conditioning, and is in very good shape. She is a very skilled player who passes well and has excellent moves inside. I think Chelsea could be an excellent team leader for us.'
VanDerveer is also looking for another standout season from sophomore T'Nae Thiel, who was selected to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team a year ago. Thiel started 23 of the final 24 games of the 2001-02 season, and made a huge impact down the stretch. She finished with 6.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, in addition to shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor (88-of-179; 49.2 percent).
'T'Nae got a lot of minutes and a lot of experience last season, and we're going to need her to do what she did and more this season. She can score, she can rebound and she can play defense. She is also a very fundamental, competitive player. T'Nae makes other players look good because of her excellent passing and shooting ability.'
Thiel and Trotter are joined in the frontcourt by 6-foot-5 freshman Shelley Nweke. The Marietta, Georgia native averaged a double-double of 11.2 points and 10.6 rebounds as a senior. Nweke is an outstanding shot blocker (5.3 per game as a senior) who will compete for time in the paint this season.
'Shelley rebounds, blocks shots and moves well,' VanDerveer said. 'She is a very smart player. It's going to be a big adjustment for her from high school to college, but I think she's going to do very well. She's going to really surprise some people.'