Without an Ogwumike, VanDerveer introduces new system to capitalize on guard strength

Oct. 30, 2014, 10:51 p.m.

Since Chiney Ogwumike stepped off the court for the final time wearing a Cardinal “S” at the Final Four loss to UConn in Nashville last year, the coaches and the players knew that Stanford basketball would have to take on a whole new identity. After all, Stanford’s women’s basketball team had had an Ogwumike sister on the court for six straight years.

(The Stanford Daily)
Sophomore guard Lili Thompson (1) averaged 8.3 points and 2.69 assists as a true freshman, and will play a key role in orchestrating the Cardinal’s “new style” offense this season. (MIKE KHEIR/The Stanford Daily)

So it was no shock at the start of summer training that changes would be made from the beginning. What was surprising was the trick that VanDerveer had up her sleeve to remake Stanford basketball.

“We’re really excited about how we’re playing,” VanDerveer said. “You lose someone that’s been the league-leading, not just Stanford, rebounder and scorer and that’s a big hole, but we’re really excited about how everyone is working hard and ready to contribute.”

VanDerveer’s abandonment of the triangle offense, centered around post player greats such as Jayne Appel and Ogwumike, in favor of a more guard-oriented offense proved how VanDerveer had been thinking about what changes had to be made long before Ogwumike stepped off the court at Bridgestone Arena.

“One of our real strengths is being aggressive and attacking with our guards, and with our posts,” said sophomore guard Lili Thompson. “Pushing the pace, getting out, being aggressive and not holding back at all are kind of what our strengths would be this year.”

The 2014-15 Stanford women’s basketball team, ranked sixth nationally in the preseason poll,  may not have an All-American returning to the Farm this season and may not have the size that they’re accustomed to having, or a powerful post dominating the middle of the key. But what VanDerveer and company do have to work with this year is speed, deadeye three-point shooters and a commanding guard presence.

That’s where the “new style” offense comes in, as VanDerveer refers to it, in order to utilize returning starters Thompson and senior point guard and Preseason All-Pac-12 candidate Amber Orrange.

“It’s pick and roll, more screens and drag screens and dribble drag, it’s all about the post players giving screens. I told them that their middle name has to be ‘screen’ and that’s how they get open is by screening and then opening up to the basket,” said VanDerveer.

“A big thing is attacking with the new offense: a lot of pick and rolls and cutting and just always constantly moving,” added sophomore forward Erica McCall. “In terms of defense, we’re picking up a lot more, we have the speed and know a lot of people can play the press. So that will be very useful and to just keep attacking teams and to constantly keep running.”

The fast-paced offense and focus on pushing the ball in transition should help the Cardinal account for offensive production by capitalizing on their speed and sharp shooting; however, with the graduation of forward Mikaela Ruef and Ogwumike, Stanford will have to account for just over 50 percent of its total rebounding elsewhere this season. VanDerveer emphasized that playing time will be largely determined by who’s crashing the boards and grabbing rebounds.

“We’re going to play people that rebound and you can put that in caps. We need people who are really serious about rebounding and that will help us a lot,” said VanDerveer.

McCall was the fourth leading rebounder on the team last year, and along with Thompson, she will be another sophomore expected to consistently deliver senior-level leadership and performance.

Senior point guard Amber Orrange (33) has been named a Preseason All-Pac-12 candidate after earning All-Pac-12 honorable mention for the past two seasons.  (MIKE KHEIR/The Stanford Daily)
Senior point guard Amber Orrange (33) has been named a Preseason All-Pac-12 candidate after earning All-Pac-12 honorable mention for the past two seasons. (MIKE KHEIR/The Stanford Daily)

“I took a lot of the suggestions that [Chiney] gave me and she’s such a hard worker. I just want to mirror that, whether it’s getting extra shots up or going over video, just really paying attention to detail,” McCall said. “She didn’t think about what she was doing, she just played the game and that’s what I want to do is to just become a more natural player.”

The Cardinal may be without an Ogwumike this season, but they do not enter the season with any lower expectations. For the 15th consecutive season, Pac-12 coaches have picked Stanford to finish atop the conference, although Cal and Oregon State are close on the heels of the Cardinal, with just five points separating the first and second spots, the narrowest margin there has been since 2008.

For me, it’s not a rebuilding year at all. It’s the same goals as last year: win the Pac-12, win the Pac-12 Tournament, make it to the Final Four and win all that. It’s the same goals, just a different way to get there and so we’ve adjusted to kind of play up our strengths this year,” said Thompson. “Just because it’s different this year [without Chiney] doesn’t mean that our goals are any lower or that we are going to succeed any less.”

For the Cardinal to take back the Pac-12 crown from USC and go deep into the NCAA tournament, it will have to be a team effort. The first test of the season will be in mid-November when Stanford hosts defending national champions UConn.

This season presents Tara VanDerveer and company the opportunity to redefine Stanford basketball without an Ogwumike, Candice Wiggins, Jeanette Pohlen, Jayne Appel or Kayla Pedersen. By the end of the season, though, we might see the emergence of another Stanford great.

Stanford opens up its exhibition slate against Vanguard this Sunday at Maples Pavilion. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.

Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Ashley Westhem was Editor in Chief of Vol. 248 after serving as Executive Editor and Managing Editor of Sports. She is the voice of Stanford women’s basketball for KZSU as well as The Daily’s beat writer for the team and aids in KZSU’s coverage of football. She graduated in 2016 and is currently a Communications masters student. Ashley is from Lake Tahoe, California.

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