Nov. 15, 2012
By Mark Soltau
STANFORD, Calif. - Jasmine Camp and Mikaela Ruef were cheerleaders most of last season, rooting the Stanford women's basketball team to its fifth-straight Final Four appearance in the NCAA Tournament. This year, they hope to be participants.
Camp, a 5-foot-7 redshirt freshman guard from Ellenwood, Ga., and Ruef, a 6-foot-3, junior forward from Beavercreek, Ohio, are fully recovered from injuries. Camp had a stress fracture in her left foot, while Ruef had plantar fasciitis in her left foot.
Both are expected to be key contributors for the fourth-ranked Cardinal (2-0), who face defending NCAA champion Baylor (2-0) on Friday night in the Jack in the Box Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Along with the pair, 5-5 redshirt freshman guard Alex Green continues to rehab from a torn Achilles' that ended her 2011-12 season last November after just two games of action. It is hoped that Green will be ready to return to action in January at the onset of Pac-12 play.
"It's great having [Camp and Ruef] back," said Tara VanDerveer, the Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women's Basketball. "It was really hard not to have them. We didn't have that depth that we wanted to have. We couldn't push the tempo with Jas - she gives us a lot of speed."
Ruef is scrappy and brings energy, toughness and intensity. She scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds against Santa Clara last week.
"Right now, she's in my starting lineup based on what I think she can do," Vanderveer said. "She just has to take care of the ball. She's working very hard in practice. She is physical. She understands basketball. A lot of times she is asked to guard the toughest people out there, so I see her helping us a lot."
Camp appeared in eight games last year before her injury and made a great first impression. She made four starts and had a terrific game against Connecticut, scoring 14 points and converting three treys. Last week against Santa Clara, she tallied four points and three assists.
"Coming in as a freshman, you're just trying to get adjusted to everything, get in the flow of the game," said Camp, who had never been hurt before. "Honestly, I was never down about the injury because it was such a great experience to be part of such a great team. I enjoyed every minute of being on the sideline, watching those girls work so hard to get to the Final Four."
Camp said she never felt isolated from her teammates.
"I never felt as if I was distant or not part of the team at all because everybody made sure I was involved in everything we did," she said. "It was a great experience to sit back and learn and see some things that you don't see when you play. The emotion, passion, leadership and continuity. Sometimes you don't see that in the midst of a game."
Ruef played in three games before her injury and expected to return. However, the healing process took longer than expected and she finally had surgery.
"It is extremely awesome to be back out there playing again," said Ruef. "I didn't realize now much I was going to miss it until I sat out last year. The team was really good at including us in everything. Like in drills, the coach would ask me to be the passer."
Both worked daily with conditioning coach and former Cardinal standout guard Susan Borchardt.
"Susan helped me a lot when I was out with staying in shape and staying motivated," Ruef said. "She helped me create a plan for when I was able to get back on my feet and shoot to improve my shot because that was something I wanted to work on anyways."
Whenever Ruef felt down or had a bad day, she would lean on Borchardt or teammate Josyln Tinkle.
"There were definitely days when I didn't feel like working hard," said Ruef. "On days like that, Susan helped me out a lot. Also my teammates. They know it's tough to be on the sideline. Everyone was just encouraging and positive."
"She always keeps things light," Ruef said. "She was always joking around a lot. She's just a happy person, easy to be around, and lightens the mood."
Camp is also grateful to be playing again and loves to ignite her teammates any way she can.
"I'm a little energizer bunny," said Camp. "I'm just out there to give our team a boost, offensively, defensively, or by just talking and getting everybody riled up and ready to go."
The last time the Cardinal played Baylor and 6-foot-8 All-American post player Brittney Griner was in the semifinals of the Final Four in Denver, with the Lady Bears prevailing 59-47 to snap Stanford's 32-game winning streak. Griner, the consensus player of the year, is back, but Cardinal All-American Nnemkadi Ogwumike has graduated and is playing professionally.
"We want to play a very challenging schedule," VanDerveer said. "We want to know early on what we need to work on, areas we need to improve. Our team is excited about it. It's not like you're going to end your season with one game. It's a win-win. If you win the game, it's great, if you don't, it's great because you played them."
Ruef is up for the challenge.
"Last year, we gave them a good run for their money," she said. "It was one of their hardest-fought games. We're ready to get back out there and get after it again."
This time, as a participant.