If you happen to be walking by Maples Pavilion and hear “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, then you know Tara VanDerveer is back on campus.
The winningest head coach in women’s collegiate basketball history has plans to turn up the sound system upon returning to her own gymnasium for the first time in 2021. After No. 6 Stanford (15-2, 12-2 Pac-12) dispensed of Washington (4-8, 1-8 Pac-12) by a 74-48 margin, only a flight home from Seattle stands in the way.
Today’s game could have been a trap. Looking forward to returning to campus, playing their third game in five days and playing an opponent with nothing to lose, Stanford could have given less than full effort. But, led by 15 points from sophomore guard Hannah Jump, effort was never a problem.
Stanford’s schedule and travel has limited Jump’s ability to earn minutes in practice, but she has found extra time to improve her conditioning. That, rebounding and playing more aggressive defense has helped her push for minutes. On Sunday, VanDerveer rewarded her with a season-high 28 minutes, and Jump responded by shooting 6-of-12 with three rebounds and two steals.
VanDerveer, never effusive with her praise and always diligent, noted that Jump “brought a lot of energy” and played “scrappy.”
“She’s really a great weapon,” VanDerveer said.
The Hall of Fame head coach was more generous with her minutes while playing a team with more scholarship players missing (seven) than on the active roster (six). Washington was missing three starters in guard Jayda Noble, forward Khayla Rooks and leading scorer Tameiya Sadler. Combined, the three average 22.2 points per game.
Washington coach Jody Wynn kept a nine-player rotation, though not by choice. Off the bench, she brought in four players, all listed at guard. Two, AJ Martineau and Carol Chikusa, are walk ons — Chikusa joined the active roster from the practice squad this past week. Callie Lind started her career on the practice squad before earning a scholarship last November. Jess Finney just graduated high school in December, enrolled early, and is now playing college basketball.
“It was an opportunity to give a lot of different people minutes,” VanDerveer said.
Stanford’s bench outscored Washington’s 29-3 and seemingly every other metric pointed in the Cardinal’s favor. Washington turned the ball over 17 times, which Stanford turned into 24 points. Stanford also went on an early 18-0 run while Washington was held scoreless for nearly six minutes.
As with the rest of the rotation, VanDerveer has not settled on a starting lineup. She has switched up the starters twice — once while three players were missing due to contact tracing while the other change has persisted for the last four games.
Four of the starting spots seem locked up. Senior guard Kiana Williams and junior guard Lexie Hull have started almost every game they have been healthy since arriving on the Farm. Sophomore forward Haley Jones leads the team in points, rebounds and assists. All three, Williams, Hull and Jones, scored 12 points in Seattle. Fifth year guard Anna Wilson’s defense has proven indispensable.
But “that big position is really open,” VanDerveer said. “I’m not going to get married to that starting lineup.”
Over the last four games, freshman forward Cameron Brink has earned the nod. On Sunday, she scored seven points but had four rebounds and four blocks. Before Brink, sophomore forward Fran Belibi started the first 12 games of the season. Sophomore forward Ashten Prechtel, who paced the team with seven rebounds against Washington, is also competing for the final spot.
Luckily, both the head coach and the players welcome the competition. In one moment, the television cameras caught Prechtel jogging over to the bench after a run of strong play, only to be greeted by an exuberant Belibi there to congratulate her on the sideline.
“It just kind of drives us to compete really hard and then when we are in a game, we’re just very very supportive of each other,” Jump said.
The biggest excitement will be returning, at last, to campus. Santa Clara County’s newest mandatory directive allows Stanford to return to Maples Pavilion, something VanDerveer said Williams was unsure would happen again in her collegiate career. Upon learning of the news, Williams was brought to tears.
“I’m really just looking forward to getting back into Maples, being able to just go to the gym and get up shots whenever we want,” Jump said. “We’re all super pumped to be back.”
“I’m thrilled,” VanDerveer said.
First, though, Stanford players need a rest in their own beds. A road trip that began with a game against UNLV on Dec. 5 and playing Washington for the first time as the “home” team in Cox Pavilion ends with Stanford once again bypassing the Huskies. Along the way, VanDerveer passed the legendary Pat Summitt for most career wins, Stanford spent six weeks atop the AP Top 25 and the Cardinal were once in danger of losing three straight for the first time since 2000-1. Now, the road trip ends with Stanford winners of four straight, ready to avenge the loss to Colorado.
“Quite honestly, we’re pretty tired,” VanDerveer said.
When the Cardinal return to Maples for a rematch with Colorado on Feb. 5, it will be the team’s first competition on Stanford’s campus since Nov. 25.
There may also be movement in the AP poll, with both No. 2 NC State and No. 3 UConn losing their first games of the season.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.