Women’s basketball season preview: Seniors stepping up

Nov. 8, 2017, 2:04 p.m.

Every year, a collegiate team is bound to lose some of its best players to graduation or to the professional league — if not both. Conforming to the rule, Stanford women’s basketball said goodbye to the Class of 2017’s Erica McCall, Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson at the end of the team’s 13th Final Four appearance.

Renewing with Final Four play for the first time since 2014, the Cardinal women brought Stanford chills during their playoff run, climaxing with McCall’s game saving block with less than two seconds left on the clock against Notre Dame during the team’s final win of the season in the Elite Eight.

Now, with McCall drafted 17th in the 2017 WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever, and Roberson and Samuelson electing to play professional ball overseas in Hungary and Italy, respectively, the team needs to once again re-adjust.

Most likely to emerge as leaders are senior guard Brittany McPhee and senior forward Kaylee Johnson. Last season, after missing 10 games due to a foot injury, co-captain Johnson still managed to shoot 40.2 percent from the floor while recording three games with more than ten rebounds. This season, we should see Johnson take the place of McCall as the team’s go-to player in the post, where she will be helped by junior forward Alanna Smith.

Dropping more than 20 points seven times throughout last season, McPhee was the team’s second best scorer, behind McCall, and led the team during the ‘Big Dance’ with 16.8 points a game thanks to 44.4 percent shooting from downtown. Her efforts were rewarded by an All-Pac 12 and Lexington Regional All-Tournament nomination. After a successful summer campaign with USA’s U23 national team, McPhee seems ready to step up her game one more time for her final season on the Farm.

Starting the point guard spot, we should see junior Marta Sniezek. During her sophomore season, Sniezek improved her game vision as she ranked seventh in assists and ninth in assist to turnover ratio (1.82) among Pac-12 players. Fellow junior Alanna Smith might also be a starter this season, after an impressive NCAA campaign last year and a silver medal at the FIBA Asia Cup with Australia’s senior National team this summer. After being named to the Pac-12 All-Tournament team last year, the Australian forward went on to rack up 15.4 points on 52.5 percent shooting, 8.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in five NCAA Tournament games.

“She’s really coming into her own,” Head Coach Tara VanDerveer said of Smith. “She’s playing with a lot of confidence, and she gives us another big body in there that has experience. She can stretch defenses with her 3-point shot. She rebounds, runs the floor.”

The team’s incoming freshman class should not be left out of the mix, as the four new recruits are coming off consistent performance during their final high school year. Guard Alyssa Jerome, from Toronto, Canada, will join the Cardinal with international experience after playing for both Canada’s U19 and senior teams.

While all this travelling meant no summer school or practices with the Cardinal for Jerome, associate coach Kate Paye is excited about the Cardinal’s new guard: “She is a skilled offensive player and is very versatile,” she said. “She can play facing the basket with her perimeter shot, she can post up in the paint and is a good rebounder with long arms.”

Stanford secured another sharp shooter in 6’1 forward Estella Moschkau. Despite her size, the Wisconsin native shot 34.6% from beyond the arc last season, and her size makes her shots really hard to defend. Her 18.6 points per game combined with 2.6 blocks per game earned her the Gatorade player of the year award during her final high school season.

“She has an unbelievable work ethic,” Edgewood High School coach Lora Staveness said.

“Estella is able to play all five positions on the floor. Her versatility makes her a matchup problem.”

Other Stanford incoming freshmen Kiana Williams and Maya Dodson were also lauded multiple times before leaving high school, being named to the 10-person 2017 WBCA High School Coaches’ All-America team and the 2017 Naismith High School Girls’ All-America teams in back to back nights last spring. They placed Stanford as one of three schools to have two signees named in the WBCA High School Coaches’ All-America team, and are the first Cardinal pair of recruits to be selected since — you guessed it — McCall and Samuelson in 2013.

In short, the Cardinal women will next season still have a strong core of upperclassmen comprised of two seniors and four juniors. The strong performances from these six athletes will help the underclassmen develop as the team attempts to earn back-to-back Final Four appearances. Stanford women’s basketball opens the season at home when it hosts the UC San Diego Tritons on Nov 4 at 4:00pm.


Contact Alexandre Bucquet at bucqueta ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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