STANFORD, Calif.- The fifth episode of "Commit To The Court", a creative series featuring exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of the Stanford men's basketball program, can be viewed below.
The latest production of The Cardinal Channel, the official video network of Stanford Athletics, "Commit To The Court" showcases the experiences off the court for various members of the Cardinal men's basketball team.
The fifth episode honors the memory of Peter Sauer, a co-captain and starter on the 1998 Final Four team who passed away last July. The outgoing Sauer (1976-2012), who played four seasons for the Cardinal and graduated with an economics degree in 1999, was part of a five-man recruiting class that played in the NCAA Tournament four consecutive years and won the Pac-10 title in 1999.
Sauer and his family will be recognized in a halftime tribute during Saturday's game against UCLA.
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Buck/Cardinal Clubhouse contributor and longtime Stanford beat writer Mark Soltau remembers Sauer's career, on and off the court, with the following account.
STANFORD, Calif.- Former Stanford basketball standout Peter Sauer will be honored at halftime Saturday afternoon when the Cardinal plays host to UCLA. He died suddenly at age 35 last July during a pickup basketball game in White Plains, N.Y.
I had the privilege of covering Sauer all four years he competed on The Farm, with the team reaching the NCAA Tournament every year and going to the Final Four in 1998. He already was a two-time team captain that season -- a rare honor for a junior - but it showed the respect and confidence head coach Mike Montgomery had in his talent, toughness and leadership.
Sauer, a 6-7 forward, was an athletic, creative, hard-nosed player, who demanded the best from himself and his teammates. Although he smiled easily - often at himself - he took the game seriously, played with passion, and took losses personally.
Montgomery rode him hard for his mistakes, mostly because he knew Sauer could handle it and wanted to set an example for other players. I can still see him running down the court with his head down after a scolding from his coach, knowing he had messed up.
This was a talented bunch, led by Brevin Knight, Arthur Lee, Mark Madsen, Kris Weems, and the Collins Twins, Jason and Jarron, and Montgomery wanted them to reach their potential. They did, winning many games, but losing a heartbreaker to eventual champion Kentucky in overtime in the NCAA semifinals. Sauer hit a clutch three-point basket late in the game to keep the Cardinal close.
Even as a freshman, Sauer wasn't afraid to take big shots. He had a swagger and it rubbed off on his teammates. Knight, arguably the best point guard in school history, loved that about him.
Sauer, who started every game his last two seasons, didn't always convert, but he seldom hesitated. He averaged nearly nine points and four assists during his career, but was unselfish and a terrific passer. Not only could he shoot from deep, he wasn't afraid to mix it up inside. He was smart, savvy and excelled in big games.
In many ways, he was an old-school player, who was adept at using the backboard. He had great touch and vision, and kept teammates on their toes.
Born in St. Louis, Sauer never took himself too seriously. He was a cut-up on and off the court, and knew how to keep his teammates loose.
As a sportswriter, you are taught to be unbiased and neutral to all players. With Sauer, it simply wasn't possible. He won me over with his confidence, dry sense of humor and easy-going personality. He could take as well as he gave, and was always good company.
Sauer's death hit me hard. Four months earlier, he sat behind me at the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York, cheering on his alma mater. Sauer was in great spirits, hanging with friends, and was proud to be a Stanford Cardinal. His magnetic personality hadn't changed a bit.
We talked briefly, and old memories came flooding back. Like the time Sauer failed with a behind-the-back pass that sent an apoplectic Montgomery into a foot-stomping rage. Or the time he swished half-court shots in practice like lay-ups.
In all the years I have written about college sports, I have never met a student-athlete who was more comfortable in his own skin.
Sauer always answered tough questions head-on, and was a natural leader. He loved to chest-bump teammates after big plays, and took just as much pleasure passing as scoring. Maybe more.
It is not a stretch to say Sauer was one of the most popular players in Stanford basketball history. Prior to his death, he was organizing a big reunion for the football season and couldn't wait to see his old teammates. As it turned out, the reunion was a celebration of his life.
Sauer's mother, Georgia, widow Amanda, and three girls, Cate, Charlotte and Cassandra, will attend Saturday's game. For them and many others followers of Stanford basketball, it will be bittersweet. But they can feel pride and take comfort in knowing that Peter was loved and appreciated at Stanford and left his mark. He was truly one of a kind.
- by Mark Soltau, Stanford Athletics
Palo Alto native Mark Soltau has spent his whole life and much of his career around Stanford sports. A sportswriter for 35 years, Soltau spent 16 (1981-97) at the San Francisco Examiner, where he covered not only the Cardinal, but all five 49ers Super Bowl-championship teams. Golf always has been his passion and Soltau served as the golf beat writer for the Examiner, as well as national golf writer for CBS Sportsline, and contributing editor to Golf Digest. He has been the editor of tigerwoods.com since 1997.