No. 3 Stanford (0-0, 0-0 Pac 12) will tip off against Morgan State (0-1, 0-0 MEAC), a Division I program from Baltimore, Maryland, on Thursday at 3 p.m. PT at Maples Pavilion. It is the Cardinal’s first official competition of the 2021-22 season and the first game in Maples with fans since the end of the 2019-20 season.
Fans were able to see the Cardinal in action last Saturday in the team’s exhibition game against Clarke. Coming off an NCAA Championship, the Cardinal looked more than ready to make another run at this year’s national title after ending the exhibition action on top, 105-35. Granted, Clarke is an NAIA program, but head coach Tara VanDerveer was able to put 14 of the 17 rostered players on the court, with each of those 14 players seeing at least 10 minutes of playing time. One notable absence from the exhibition game was sophomore guard Jana Van Gytenbeek, who played in 28 games last season and was a key player off the bench in multiple games.
As Stanford begins a new season, they will need to adjust to life without Kiana Williams ’21, who started 128 consecutive games for the Cardinal in her career and left the program as the school’s leader in 3-point shots. She was the 18th pick in the second round of the 2021 WNBA draft, selected by the Seattle Storm. She was rostered by the Storm after making the final cuts for their opening day roster before being released in late June. Williams recently signed with the Adelaide Lightning in Australia to continue her professional basketball career.
The Cardinal will return four out of five starters, however, leaving no shortage of experience even without Williams. Junior guard Haley Jones, senior guard Lexie Hull, sophomore forward Cameron Brink and sixth-year guard Anna Wilson were the Cardinal’s other four starters for the majority of the season. Jones was named the NCAA Tournament Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 2021 after leading the team in scoring in both of its Final Four games. Wilson is also back for a sixth year after the NCAA declared that last season did not count towards NCAA eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four newcomers saw the floor last Saturday and will likely see more playing time on Thursday: freshman forward Kiki Iriafen, graduate transfer student guard Jordan Hamilton, freshman guard Elena Bosgana and freshman forward Brooke Demetre all saw at least 14 minutes of time on the court. Iriafen and Bosgana each scored 11 points for the Cardinal — two of six players who scored in double digits. Freshman guard Jzaniya Harriel was the only new face not to see the court against Clarke.
Iriafen and Demetre were both top-20 ranked recruits coming out of high school while Bosgana, who hails from Athens, Greece, has played with the Greek National Team since the U16 level. Hamilton transferred from Northwestern University and, after appearing in 100 games for the Wildcats with 85 starts over four years, helped lead the team to their first Big 10 championship in 30 years.
Morgan State is coming off a 69-53 loss to the University of San Francisco on Tuesday, in which the Bears shot just 19-for-71 from the field. Graduate student forward Dahnye Redd, who was named the 2021 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Preseason Player of the Year, led Morgan State with 29 minutes on the court and 11 points. Redd and junior guard Ja’Niah Henson were the only two Bears to score in double figures; Henson tallied 10 points.
Although Thursday’s game is the first official game since the Cardinal won the NCAA Championship last season, fans will have to wait a few extra days for the championship celebration. Stanford Athletics reported that the team will celebrate its title on Sunday, Nov. 14 against No. 25 Texas.