Pohlen A Veteran At The Point For Stanford

By Michelle Smith

There's no doubt that Stanford point guard Jeanette Pohlen is a wily veteran, a player with a track record of both experience and success.

But compared to some of the young point guards who are leading the charge for some of the nation's top teams, she's practically ancient.

Among the top four seeds who all remain in the NCAA Tournament brackets, three have freshman point guards.

Bria Hartley is the floor general at Connecticut, Odyssey Sims runs the show for Baylor and Meighan Simmons plays the point for Pat Summitt at Tennessee.

And then there's Pohlen, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, a senior with four years of college basketball know-how under her belt. An eternity, really.

Not that Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer is complaining. A veteran floor general is just what she wants when her top-seeded team takes the floor Saturday night at Spokane Arena against No. 5 seed North Carolina. The Cardinal are playing for their fourth straight trip to the Final Four and the program's first national title since 1992.

"I like having that experienced point guard," VanDerveer said. "I look at some of the freshmen and sometimes they don't feel the same sense of urgency, but they also don't have cares. They can go in there and play relaxed. I like assists more than turnovers and sometimes freshmen don't understand how costly turnovers are.

"So I'm excited to have the point guard we have, and with the year that she has had. I love the ball in her hands and I love what she does for our team and that she creates for herself and other people."

Pohlen, the Southern California native, has saved the best year of her career for last, completing an ascension characterized by hard work, drive and what VanDerveer calls "amnesia," an ability to forget about mistakes and move on.

She began at Stanford as a role player, moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and played the point guard position out of necessity as backcourt injuries piled up for the Cardinal.

Despite a couple of different moves to get her back to her natural position at shooting guard, Pohlen settled in at the point. And now she's owns it.

Pohlen leads Stanford in minutes played, free-throw percentage and assists. She is the team's second-leading scorer at 14.8 points per game.

And she needs just three 3-pointers to match the single-season record of 91 established by Krista Rappahahn in 2007.

UC Davis coach Sandy Simpson, whose team fell to the Cardinal in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last Saturday called Pohlen a "special player."

"I think I have gained a lot of experience," said Pohlen, a finalist for the Naismith and Wade Trophy player of the year awards as well as the State Farm All-America team.

"Teams do have freshmen point guards and they are doing an excellent job…I do feel confident having played point guard for this team in the NCAA Tournament the past few years."

Pohlen, who can be considered one of the most improved players ever to come through Stanford, said she considers her development as a player to be a gradual process.

But no doubt, something shifted in her senior season, leading to some remarkable performances, including her 31-point effort in the win over Connecticut on Dec. 30 to break the Huskies NCAA-record 90-game win streak.

"I just came in this year wanting to contribute more and be more of a leader and be more aggressive," she said. "I wanted to be more aggressive with my shot, the team and taking it to the basket. I just wanted to contribute more."

Pohlen's NCAA Tournament has gotten off to something of a slow start, at least from a scoring perspective.

But VanDerveer thinks that a good sign for her team as they look to make a run to their fourth straight Final Four and take home the program's first national title since 1992.

It means she'll only get better.

"I think Jeanette can really break out," VanDerveer said. "That bodes well for us."

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