Feb. 22, 2012
By: Mark Soltau, Buck/Cardinal Clubhouse
STANFORD, Calif. - For Joslyn Tinkle and many stellar student-athletes who consider Stanford, the question is often the same: Stay home where it's comfortable and success is almost a given, or expand your horizons, push yourself, and shoot for the moon?
Tinkle chose the latter.
A two-time Montana Gatorade Player of the Year and McDonald's All-American her senior season at Big Sky High School in Missoula, Tinkle couldn't be faulted for staying put. Her father, Wayne, is the head basketball coach at the University of Montana, where he starred as a player, and her mother, Lisa, was a standout on the Grizzlies women's basketball team and was recently inducted into the athletic hall of fame.
Younger sister Elleson, a high school senior, also excels in the sport and will play at Gonzaga next year. Younger brother Tres also plays the sport.
"There was a little pressure, but not from my parents," said the
6-foot-3 Tinkle, a junior forward on the third-ranked Cardinal women's basketball team. "Some people may have their disagreements and take on it--I know my sister is dealing with it. But I feel when you have a program like Stanford, it's tough for people to think that's not what's best for you. It wasn't that tough."
Wayne, whose team is having another outstanding season, sensed that his eldest daughter wanted to test herself athletically and academically.
"We knew she wanted a different opportunity at a level that could contend for a national title," he said. "She knew that may be compromising a storied or historic career, but she wanted a chance to be a part of something really special. And along with that, and every bit if not more importantly, the education there."
Tinkle, who started 9 games last season and has started 13 this year, averages 8.2 points and 5.5 rebounds. She is also pursuing a double major in sociology and communication.
Last Saturday night, she scored a team-high 19 points to help the Cardinal clinch the inaugural Pac-12 championship with an 81-46 victory at Oregon. It marked the 12th-consecutive conference crown for Stanford (24-1) which has won 21-straight games.
"She's having a really good season," said Tara VanDerveer, the Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women's Basketball. "She's a big, strong, powerful player who scores and rebounds. The biggest thing for us is that she's a high-energy person and she wants to be out there."
Tinkle could have been a star at Montana. At Stanford, she plays alongside Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, two talented players who often steal the headlines. That's okay with the unselfish Tinkle, who simply wants to be on the court and help her team win.
"I give her a lot of credit because she could have just stayed (in Montana)," VanDerveer said. "There's a big challenge for all of our players--they're used to being big fish in the little pond--and psychologically they say it's really hard to go from being a big fish to a little fish. Not that anyone is a little fish, but it is a big adjustment for all of them."
That's where Tinkle's parents come in. Both have been tremendously supportive and have helped her through the ups and downs. Wayne spent some time in the NBA before going overseas to Sweden--where Joslyn was born--and played professionally in Spain for almost seven years. Lisa played against a VanDerveer-coached Stanford team in 1988 and pushed the Cardinal to overtime before losing.
"I definitely look to them," Tinkle said. "With my dad, I hear it from the coaching perspective and also as a parent. I kind of get the best of both worlds."
Added Wayne, "We're not overly critical at all, we just know what she's capable of given the opportunity. We keep trying to push her through some of the frustrating times as both parents and coaches. My wife does a great job of taking the parent role and I stick to the coach's role."
Through it all, Tinkle, known as "Jos" or "Tink" to friends, has never stopped smiling.
"She's always happy," said junior forward Mikaela Ruef, who has a unique bond with Tinkle, the duo coming in together as the only freshmen in 2009-2010. "Even when she's not having the best day, she's really good at putting on a happy face to get through practice and help other people get through practice."
That's hardly surprising to Wayne.
"That's one thing she's always been blessed with," he said. "I told Tara after she signed, this is just dad talking, but you're getting yourself a very special, special individual. Not just a basketball player. About five or six months later, Tara called and said I thought you were just being a bragging dad like most dads, but she's just a delight. She's always positive and full of energy."
Also entertaining. Tinkle loves quoting lines from movies and hamming it up with teammates.
"I'm kind of crowned the team clown," she said. "That's what's fun. We have a good time goofing around, singing and dancing. They give me a hard time for my facial expressions."
Rightfully so, according to Ruef.
"She's hilarious," she said. "She does different voices and impressions. She can impersonate all of the coaches. Not mean or anything, but just for fun. She's a thoughtful, funny, perfect person."
Don't mistake the friendly smile for a softy. Tinkle has always been competitive, especially during heated H-O-R-S-E games at home.
"We get into it," said Tinkle. "The driveway basketball--that can really go bad at the Tinkle household."
Tinkle is comfortable at center, power forward, or small forward, but has settled into the latter position this year. She has good outside range from the perimeter--her dad's specialty--and credits former teammates Jayne Appel and Kayla Pedersen for teaching her the ropes.
"I knew nothing was going to be handed to me," Tinkle said. "The success I had at Montana I really deserved to be at a top program like this. It is tough to come in and realize you're not the star, but with 10 other superstars. It does make you swallow your pride. But I expected that. I expected to come in and learn from Jayne and Kayla and from all the wonderful upperclassmen teammates I had. Now I'm the upperclassman and I'm ready to lead this team."
Tinkle scored a career-high 22 points at Arizona earlier this month, and had 20-point games against CSU Bakersfield and Colorado. She's also deadly from the free throw line.
"She understands there's not a lot of playing time behind Nneka and Chiney," said VanDerveer. "She just really wants to be out there badly, so she plays hard. She'll take a charge, she'll get on the floor for a loose ball, and she sets screens."
Case in point: Tinkle has 29 assists and 18 steals.
Tinkle is attending Stanford on a scholarship funded by Peter and Helen Bing of Los Angeles. They communicate regularly.
"They are great people and I am very, very thankful for them," Tinkle said. "It's tough for them to come up here, but we send letters back and forth. They have been extremely supportive throughout my career."