Jan. 21, 2010
STANFORD, Calif. -
The Stanford women's basketball team got its look at No. 1 Connecticut, as well as powers Duke and Tennessee earlier this season under the assumption that it could see, analyze, improve and respond the next time a team like UConn stood in its path, perhaps in the national championship game.
The problem with looking ahead though, is neglecting to see what's right in front, something Stanford cannot afford to do with its starting backcourt sidelined by injuries.
Point guard J.J. Hones continues to deal with swelling in her surgically repaired knee and is regarded as day-to-day. Shooting guard Jeanette Pohlen, one of the team's most durable players, is nursing an ankle sprain. And backup point Melanie Murphy will be limited for the rest of the season, coach Tara VanDerveer said, because of sore knees.
"We've got to have other people ready," VanDerveer said.
If there is a theme for the remainder of the Pac-10 season and beyond, that is it. There's no looking past anybody when you're worried about who you can put on the court.
For Stanford, Linda LaRoque and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude have filled in at the guard positions, and forward Michelle Harrison may work into the action at shooting guard, a spot that forward Kayla Pedersen could also play if VanDerveer chooses to use a big lineup.
"We're definitely affected when three engines of our train are derailed," VanDerveer said. "It is a challenge for our team. I hope it helps us in the long run, but it's painful in the short run."
For LaRoque, "this is a great opportunity," VanDerveer said. But she needs to improve her shooting and do better at adapting to the pace of the game.
For Gold-Onwude, "she's making smarter decisions, but she has to eliminate turnovers," VanDerveer said. "She's trying to make Mission Impossible passes. But she is doing what we always hoped Ros would do. She's running our offense. Maybe this is something good to come out of our guard problem."
As for the big picture, the injuries have heightened Stanford's focus. It has to.
"We have to play games whether we're healthy or not," VanDerveer said. "Whether you're talking about UConn, Baylor, Tennessee or any other top team, everyone is working hard and no one is conceding anything to anybody.
"UConn's got terrific talent and plays really hard and plays really well. We have to look at what they're doing and say we can play harder and we can play better, and use that as a positive for us."
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MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: A different Shoji perspective
Kawika and Erik Shoji have been in the spotlight recently. Last year, they became the first set of brothers to earn All-America first-team recognition in the same season and, this year, are prime reasons for Stanford's high expectations in men's volleyball.
With the season barely begun, the Shojis already have been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, on Comcast Sports Net Bay Area and soon will be on the cover of Volleyball Magazine.
Of course, the back story to any Shoji profile is their father, Dave Shoji, who has earned legendary status on The Islands by coaching the University of Hawai'i women's volleyball team to four national championships over the past 35 years, and to a surprise final four appearance last fall.
Despite the distance from home, Mary and Dave Shoji attend perhaps 80 percent of Stanford's matches. Come first serve, however, and Mary is nowhere to be seen. And that's by design.
"He doesn't like to hear me," she said. "And I don't like to hear him."
However, Dave is easily visible at Stanford's matches, at the south end of the court. Typically, a match begins with Dave calmly sitting several rows back. With the passage of each set, each glimpse catches his progression ever closer to the court. By the final set, he's standing in the front row, eyes focused sharply on the play in front of him.
"It's hard for me to detach the coaching part," he said. "Watching my sons, I'm always coaching in my mind."
He almost did more than that. Stanford coach John Kosty attempted to hire Shoji as a volunteer assistant coach this year, and Shoji was interested. However, there was too much to overcome, both from a red-tape perspective - Shoji would need to take a leave of absence from Hawai'i - and because he felt he might shortchange both programs by not being able to devote full effort to either.
Last year, Stanford had essentially one assistant, Ken Shibuya, because longtime assistant Al Roderigues was stricken with stomach cancer.
"I think there was a need for the program to have another coach, especially with Al being ill," Dave said. "I would've loved to have helped John on a regular basis, but it just didn't work out on my end. I didn't want to be a part-time coach."
Mary, a Fargo, N.D., native who met Dave when she was playing basketball for Hawai'i, takes a different perspective when viewing her sons.
"I'm probably more analytical," she said. "I've been around volleyball a long time. But I can keep it in better perspective."
"I want them to win very badly," he said. "At times, it would get too emotional for me."
Dave said he doesn't always agree with Kosty's coaching decisions, but resists the urge to second guess.
"He has a plan, a very good plan," Shoji said. "There are times I might do things differently, but there are good reasons why he does what he does.
"And the last thing I want to do is be one of those fathers that voice their opinions. I don't allow that with the parents of my players. And I understand what it's like."
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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Generation gap
Those with a trunk full of old 45 records would understand, but those in the iPod age most likely wouldn't. Hence the bewilderment when VanDerveer tried to explain to her players how to stop Oregon's high-octane offense, while using old-school vinyl terminology.
"You know how records are a 78, 45, or 33?" VanDerveer asked.
VanDerveer said she used the record analogy to make a point about the speed necessary to stop the Ducks, the Pac-10's 78-rpm team.
"We're a 45," she said to her players. "Not a 78, or a 33."
"Just sprint and get back on defense!"
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MEN'S BASKETBALL: Davey remembers a friend
Stanford men's basketball assistant coach Dick Davey was stunned Tuesday night to hear about the death of his friend, former Gonzaga coach Dan Fitzgerald. Stunned, because he had spoken to Fitzgerald only a few hours before.
Fitzgerald, who laid the foundation for Gonzaga's rise during 15 years as the Zags' head coach between 1978-1997, died after collapsing at a Spokane restaurant. He was 67.
"He was the most loyal human being I have ever been around," Davey said Wednesday. "I'll always be indebted to him. He was one of the greatest people I've known."
Davey and Fitzgerald began their coaching careers around the same time, at San Jose high schools - Davey at Leland and Fitzgerald at Mitty in the late 1960s. During the summer, they ran basketball camps together. They also coached for a season together on the staff at Santa Clara University.
On Tuesday at 3 p.m., Fitzgerald phoned Davey to thank him for leaving tickets to Stanford's game at Washington State last Thursday, a game in which Fitzgerald attended.
A few hours later, Davey received a call from Fitzgerald's mother, informing him of Fitzgerald's death.
"Shocking," Davey said. "He's a special friend. He always will be thought of that way."
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FOOTBALL: Life after football for Ex-QB Dils
There is indeed life after football. Need proof, see: Dils, Steve.
The Stanford Athletics Hall of Famer who starred at quarterback under Bill Walsh in the 1978 Bluebonnet Bowl victory over Georgia, has been recruited to be the Managing Director of the newly-formed Atlanta office of Avison Young, Canada's largest independently-owned commercial real estate services company.
Dils, who played 10 years in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons, was most recently Executive Vice-President and Managing Director of Grubb & Ellis' Atlanta office.
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SOFTBALL: Mendoza signs with pro team
Former Stanford softball great Jessica Mendoza, a U.S. national team veteran and 2004 Olympic gold medalist, signed Wednesday to play with the USSSA Florida Pride of the second-year National Pro Fastpitch league. Mendoza joins Stanford and Olympic teammate Lauren Lappin on the Central Florida-based team.
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WOMEN'S SOCCER: Stanford reunion in Guatemala
Three members of Stanford's 2009 NCAA runner-up team will meet in Guatemala City on opposite sides of the field. Sophomore midfielder Teresa Noyola and freshman defender Rachel Quon will play for the United States against freshman defender Alina Garciamendez of Mexico when the teams meet Monday in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championships.
Noyola and Quon both started Thursday for the U.S. in a 6-0 tournament-opening victory over Jamaica. Noyola scored the team's fourth goal, in the 50th minute.
Garciamendez helped Mexico to a 2-1 victory in its opener, against Trinidad and Tobago.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics
Ideas for future notebook items are welcomed. Please contact David Kiefer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Past editions of the weekly Cardinal Insider can be found on the main page of gostanford.com by clicking on "General Releases" from the "Sports" pull-down menu.