Last fall, in the wake of Landry Fields’ departure to the NBA, the Cardinal debuted a new-look squad that featured six scholarship freshmen (and another walk-on who saw ample action) but no seniors. Slated to pick ninth in the then-Pac-10, outside expectations were low for the young bunch with many expecting last season to serve as a major rebuilding year.
Twelve months later, the same team–minus would-be senior Jeremy Green, who left Stanford last spring to enter the NBA draft–returns to Maples Pavilion with an added year of maturity, team chemistry and international experience thanks to a team trip to Spain and hopes of taking the newly created Pac-12 by storm.
“We are very excited about this season,” said head coach Johnny Dawkins at the Pac-12 Media Day on Oct. 28. “Our kids, they have done a great job this preseason of working hard to get better. I thought it started last spring, it continued through the summer and through our trip to Spain, in which our team got closer.”
“We grew a lot from that experience, and we’re just very excited about starting this upcoming season,” he added.
Though Green’s absence leaves some uncertainty–he was the team’s leading scorer with 16.7 points per game and named to All-Pac-10 First Team–sophomores Anthony Brown and Dwight Powell are expected to step into the primary scoring roles. Indeed, much of the Card’s success will depend upon how much the seven-man sophomore class improved over the break, particularly the two Pac-10 All-Freshman Team selections.
Brown was one of 12 collegiate players named to the USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team over the summer and traveled to Latvia to play amongst the international elite. Finishing his freshman season as the Card’s third-leading scorer with 8.7 points per game (Powell was next best with 8.1 points per game), and second-best from behind the three-point arc, Brown will be a primary scoring option from the wing.
Powell, a versatile 6-9 forward who can score from the perimeter and can hold his own down low, had several brilliant offensive and defensive games last season, but will have to perform more consistently this season.
Additionally, the Cardinal now boasts four seniors–Jarrett Mann, Josh Owens, Jack Trotter and Andrew Zimmermann–who will share the captain duties this season.
“We have very good leadership, probably the best leadership that we’ve had since I’ve been there,” Dawkins said. “And I’m really proud of what these young men have done in the senior class to make sure that we’re all on the same page and all understand the culture that we want to have at Stanford.”
One source of this leadership is sure to be the team’s most veteran player, Owens, who redshirted in his third year at the Farm and will likely be the team’s starting center once again. Stanford’s second-leading scorer last year with 11.8 points per game, he was Stanford’s most dominant low post presence, leading in both rebounds (201 total, 6.5 rebounds per game) and blocks (29 total, 0.9 per game).
Both Zimmermann and Trotter–as well as sophomore Stefan Nastic, who sat out for the bulk of last season with a foot injury–are expected to assist Owens in the paint off the bench.
Mann, the only player aside from Green and Owens who started in all 31 games last season, will likely play off the ball in the shooting guard position, a more natural fit for the 6-4 senior who has fallen into point guard duties over the past two seasons.
Mann has established himself as a fierce defender with strong court vision–he led last year’s team with 30 steals and 130 assists–though he may be called upon to shoot more than he has in previous seasons.
However, amongst the sea of veterans, one unfamiliar face on the sideline is expected to contribute right away. Highly touted freshman Chasson Randle, a 6-1 point guard who was named the Gatorade Illinois Basketball Player of the Year as a senior, made an instant impact on the team’s trip to Spain in September, when he led the team in scoring in multiple games and was praised by the foreign teams’ coaches.
“When I first saw Chasson, I thought he was a winner,” Dawkins said. “His team, of course, won the state last season so he comes from a winning culture. His team was terrific, and he led them.”
“I also saw a young man who was very versatile in his play, whether it’s being able to knock down a shot from outside, whether it was taking the ball to the basket and creating shots for himself or his teammates, he had that innate ability to make that play,” he added. “A very unselfish player, just only out there looking to make his teammates better, but at the same time he has the ability to attack and create on his own as well.”
Randle will also have support from sophomore Aaron Bright, a player that Dawkins referred to as “our most improved player that is returning.” Bright, a streaky three-point shooter last season, was second in assists, with an average of two per game.
Altogether, the Cardinal will be looking to improve on last year’s seventh-place finish in conference, with No. 16 Arizona, No. 17 UCLA and No. 24 Cal headlining the Pac-12 class this season. In a preseason coaches’ poll, Stanford was picked to finish sixth in the conference.
The Cardinal will open its season this Saturday, Nov. 5th in Maples Pavilion at 7 p.m. in an exhibition game against Ryerson.