Stanford Begins 2003-04 Season Practice

Oct. 15, 2003

STANFORD, Calif. - The Stanford women's basketball team will officially open the 2003-04 season as they begin practice on Saturday, Oct. 18, at 8 a.m. at Maples Pavilion.

The Cardinal, which has been ranked anywhere from fourth to ninth in the nation in the pre-season publications, returns 11 letter-winners and five starters from last year's squad that won 27 games, captured a third-straight Pacific-10 Conference Championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Head Coach Tara VanDerveer will field a roster that includes two-time First-Team Kodak All-American Nicole Powell, First-Team All-Pac-10 selection Kelley Suminski and five additional players who saw time in the starting lineup last season (Susan King Borchardt, Sebnem Kimyacioglu, Azella Perryman, T'Nae Thiel and Chelsea Trotter).

Needless to say, VanDerveer is very optimistic about a squad that is a consensus preseason top 10 pick.

'I feel like we are light years ahead of where we were at this time last year,' VanDerveer said. 'We had a very young team last year, and did very well. This team is much more experienced. The keys for us will be to stay healthy and find a way to play our best basketball at the end of the season.'

Stanford picked up valuable experience in September on a five-game, 11-day tour of Italy. The Cardinal played well throughout the trip, and finished with an impressive 4-1 record against professional competition.

'We had a fantastic time in Italy. Not only did we play well, but we had a chance to get everyone a lot of valuable game experience. It was also a great chance for us to build some momentum going into the season.'

The Cardinal's experience could come in handy for non-conference match-ups against three teams that enter the season ranked in the top 20 --- Georgia, Tennessee and Texas Tech. Stanford will also have its hands full in the quest for a fourth consecutive Pac-10 regular season title. Fifteen of the 18 players who earned First-Team or Honorable Mention all-conference consideration last season have returned to their respective teams.

'We have the type of team that wants to play great competition,' said VanDerveer. 'The opportunity to play so many games against top competition is a win-win situation for us. We want, and need to be, playing the toughest schedule possible.'

Here is a position-by-position look at the 2003-04 Stanford Cardinal:

VanDerveer's squad will continue to look to push the ball up the court with the return of starting guards Kelley Suminski and Susan King Borchardt and sophomore Clare Bodensteiner.

Suminski enjoyed a spectacular sophomore season that culminated with First-Team All-Pac-10 and Pac-10 All-Tournament Team honors. With Nicole Powell sidelined with a back injury for the first nine games of the 2002-03 season, Suminski took over and averaged 14.4 points to lead the Cardinal to an 8-1 record and wins over nationally-ranked Kansas State and Arizona. She averaged 11.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists and ranked among the conference leaders in five different categories, including third in free throw percentage (82.7) and sixth in 3-point percentage (37.6).

Suminski enters the season first in school history and second in Pac-10 history in career free throw percentage (84.7), seventh in conference history in career 3-point percentage (40.9) and 22nd in school history in career scoring average (9.4 ppg).

'Kelley had an outstanding sophomore year and was very deserving of her All-Pac-10 selection,' VanDerveer said. 'She is a very steady, consistent player. She can knock down shots, handle the ball, pass the ball and play defense. She doesn't make a lot of mistakes. Kelley showed last year that she is a very heady player who remains poised in tough situations.'

One of the biggest story lines for Stanford last season was the return of Borchardt, who missed most of her first two seasons because of knee injuries. She returned to start 30 games last year and averaged 6.5 points, 1.5 assists and 1.3 rebounds per game. The 5-foot-7 redshirt junior, who married former Stanford men's basketball standout Curtis Borchardt in August, had 14 points in an upset of then-No. 2/2 Kansas State in November and 17 points, including 4-of-4 from 3-point range in a come-from-behind victory over then-No. 21/21 Arizona in December.

'Susan is as competitive a player as we have ever had at Stanford. Our number one priority is to have her healthy. She gives us great pressure on the ball with her perimeter defense and adds a lot of speed and quickness to our team. We need her to continue to become more of a floor leader. We're going to need to play more up-tempo basketball to maximize Susan's strengths.'

Bodensteiner earned valuable experience coming off the bench last season, and is expected to make more of an impact this year. She appeared in a total of 22 games in 2002-03 and averaged 2.3 points per contest. The Minico, Idaho, product gives the Cardinal speed, energy and an additional outside shooting threat.

'Clare is a sparkplug player who is able to come into the game and give us a lot of energy. She worked very hard over the summer, and we feel that she has really improved. She is playing more relaxed and with a lot more confidence. Clare is someone we want to find more minutes for this year.'

The 2003-04 season will mark the end of the Nicole Powell era on The Farm.

The 6-foot-2 senior has already established herself as one of the top players in Stanford women's basketball history. Last year alone, she joined Jennifer Azzi, Kate Starbird and Val Whiting as the only two-time Kodak First-Team All-Americans in school history and became just the third player in Stanford history, along with Starbird and Whiting, to be a two-time Naismith National Player of the Year Finalist.

'Nicole is just an incredible basketball player. She is so versatile that she can play any position on the floor. She can shoot, she can take the ball to the basket and she is very physical. She is a match-up nightmare for the defense, because she can post up a smaller player and can take a bigger player outside. What I'm most excited about with Nicole this year is that she is coming off a great experience playing in the Pan American Games and that she has really improved defensively.'

Powell will also look to continue her assault on the school record book this season. She ranks in the top 12 in Stanford history in rebounding average (first, 9.1 pg), scoring average (third, 16.3 pg), free throw percentage (third, 81.5), rebounds (fourth, 797), assists (sixth, 450), 3-pointers (eighth, 143) and points (12th, 1,435) and is represented in the school single season record book 15 times in 11 different categories. She averaged a near double-double of 19.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals last season, and owns career averages of 16.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.7 steals.

'Nicole's physical talent is indisputable, and she is also a very intelligent player. The challenge for Nicole as a senior is to be a great team leader and to put the team on her back with her ability.'

Powell will be joined on the wings by junior 3-point shooting specialist Sebnem Kimyacioglu and sophomore Krista Rappahahn.

Kimyacioglu is the Cardinal's top outside shooting threat, and has made 112 3-pointers over the last two seasons. She made 70 3-pointers last season, which tied for the seventh-highest total in school history, and now ranks eighth in Pac-10 history in career 3-point percentage at 40.6. The 5-foot-11 Kimyacioglu started 20 games a year ago and averaged 8.4 points, 2.2 assists and 1.5 rebounds. She ranked second in the conference in 3-pointers (2.19) and fourth in 3-point percentage (39.5), and was among the national leaders in those categories for most of the season. She showed great improvement in the off-season, and was the Cardinal's leading scorer in Italy at 18.6 points per contest.

'Sebnem played outstanding basketball in Italy, and we're looking for her to continue that level of play in the regular season. She can knock down 3-pointers with the best of them, and has improved her ability to put the ball on the floor and go to the basket. We're also looking for another good perimeter defender, and she has really improved in that area.'

Rappahahn played in 26 games as a freshman, and averaged 3.1 points and 1.6 rebounds per outing. The sophomore from Lebanon, Conn., who averaged 10.0 points per game for the Cardinal in Italy, improved tremendously over the course of last season, and became a key component off the bench by the end of the year. She is an intelligent player, and has the potential to be a dangerous scoring threat in the years to come.

'We have seen tremendous improvement in Krista over the last year,' VanDerveer said. 'She is an extremely hard worker and she really understands the system we're running. She runs the floor well and can knock down 3-pointers. Krista is working very hard at being more physical and more aggressive.'

Defense and rebounding will be at a premium in the paint with juniors Azella Perryman, T'Nae Thiel and Chelsea Trotter, who combined to start all 64 games at the power forward and center positions in 2002-03.

The three juniors were instrumental in Stanford setting Pacific-10 Conference and school scoring defense records by allowing just 58.9 points per game last season. Stanford allowed 60 points or less 19 times in 32 games, and 50 points or fewer on nine occasions.

In addition, the Cardinal ranked first in the conference in rebounding margin by beating opponents by an average of 8.0 per game (39.2-31.2) on the glass. Trotter, Perryman and Thiel all ranked in the top 20 in the conference in rebounding, and combined to pull down 19.0 boards per contest.

Thiel has started 40 consecutive games, and 55 of the last 56, over the last two seasons in the paint. She averaged 7.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists a year ago, and now ranks ninth in Stanford history in career rebounds per game at 5.9. More importantly, the 6-foot-1 Thiel has established herself as one of the top defensive post players in the Pacific-10 Conference. Her status for the season opener is in doubt, however, after she suffered a stress fracture in her left foot during preparations for the trip to Italy in early September.

'T'Nae is an extremely intelligent player who makes great decisions with the ball. She is a fabulous defensive player, and has the ability to score, pass and rebound. She is an excellent team player. We're disappointed that she missed the trip to Italy because of a stress fracture but we hope that rest and rehabilitation will get her back on the court soon.'

The 6-foot-3 Trotter enjoyed a career renaissance last season after she sat out the 2001-02 campaign because of chronic pain in both knees. Trotter, who finished the season in the starting lineup, averaged 9.2 points and 6.1 rebounds and finished among the conference leaders in field goal percentage (fourth; 52.9) , defensive rebounding (ninth, 4.22 pg) and total rebounding (12th, 6.1 pg). Trotter, who owns a career field goal percentage of 52.8 (152-of-288), averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds in Pac-10 play and shot 50.0 percent or better from the floor in 14-of-18 conference games.

'Chelsea earned the starting center position late last season,' VanDerveer said. 'We need to get her the ball more. She has the potential to be our top scorer on the low block. She is a high energy player who really works hard, and she continues to improve on defense.'

After coming off the bench as a freshman in 2001-02, Perryman made great strides in her sophomore season. She increased her production to 9.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest in her sophomore season after averaging 3.8 points and 3.6 rebounds as a freshman. She ranked fourth in the Pac-10 in defensive rebounding (4.62 pg), sixth in total rebounding (6.9 pg) and sixth in field goal percentage (51.4) last season, in addition to 14 double figure scoring games and five double-doubles.

'Azella had an outstanding sophomore year,' VanDerveer said. 'She gives us real good versatility because she can play out on the wing as a three or in the post as a four. She is a very smart player who can post up and hit outside shots. Azella really showed last year that her biggest strength is her rebounding ability.'

Perryman, Thiel and Trotter will be challenged by senior Katie Denny, sophomore Shelley Nweke, redshirt freshman Eziamaka Okafor and freshman Kristen Newlin.

Denny started off her senior season by playing well in Italy, and showed great improvement on offense and defense. She has appeared in 65 games over the last three seasons, and averaged 2.0 points and 1.6 rebounds a year ago. The 6-foot-1 Denny played well early in the season, but missed eight games down the stretch with a knee injury. She is a versatile player who can help the Cardinal at a variety of positions.

'This will be a great senior year for Katie if she continues to play the way she did in Italy,' VanDerveer said. 'She is athletic, runs the floor extremely well and can get on the glass and rebound. Katie is very versatile. She can defend bigger players, and offensively, she can pull people outside and hit outside shots.'

Nweke missed the first month of the 2002-03 season with a stress reaction in her left foot, and went on to appear in 14 games off the bench. The 6-foot-5 native of Marietta, Ga., showed off season improvement and her shot blocking abilities will help her compete for playing time this year.

'Shelley is developing well,' VanDerveer said. 'She has improved her moves on the low block and improved her strength.

Okafor, who missed the entire 2002-03 season with an ACL tear that occurred before her arrival on The Farm, was hit by the injury bug again this year. On the second day of preparations for the team's Italian tour, Okafor tore her left Achilles' tendon. She may return midway through the 2003-04 campaign. Injury aside, Okafor is a tremendous athlete who will be a factor in the Cardinal program for years to come.

'Eziamaka's injury was a major disappointment, and I'm very sad that it happened to such a competitive young lady. She adds another dimension to the team because she is so aggressive, physical and intense. She was playing very well before the injury, and we know she'll play a big role for us in the future.'

Newlin, a 6-foot-5 forward/center from Riverton, Wyo., is the lone true freshman on the roster. The two-time Gatorade Wyoming Player of the Year was one of just 20 players selected to participate in the 2003 L'Adidas All-Star Roundball Classic after averaging a double-double as a senior. Newlin is a quick learner, and will immediately challenge for time in the frontcourt.

'Kristen is going to get the opportunity to play early and a lot,' VanDerveer said. She is a very hard worker and has caught on to our system very quickly. She has an excellent shooting touch and can really put the ball in the basket. She really loves the game of basketball and I expect her to do very well for us.'

The Cardinal posts will also be joined by sophomore Brooke Smith, who transferred to The Farm from Duke University after the 2002-03 campaign and will sit out this year because of NCAA transfer rules. Smith, a native of San Anselmo, Calif., was a 2002 First-Team Parade Megazine High School All-American and participant in the McDonald's All-America game after averaging a double-double of 15.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game as a senior. She averaged 3.4 points and 2.5 rebounds in 25 appearances off the bench for the Blue Devils last season. Smith will sit out the year because of NCAA transfer rules, but will make a big impact on the practice floor.

'We are very happy Brooke is at Stanford,' VanDerveer said. 'We wish we could play Brooke this year, but she is going to go on to make some major contributions for this program. It will be great for Kristen, Chelsea, Shelly, Azella and T'Nae to go up against Brooke every day in practice.'

Stanford in the Preseason Rankings
Athlon-No. 4
Basketball News-No. 5
Street & Smith's-No. 7
Lindy's-No. 9

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