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It’s been awhile since Tara VanDerveer faced so many personnel issues heading into the season, and the biggest issue is point guard, a position that might be occupied by a true freshman.

The Cardinal women’s basketball team has been practicing since Oct. 4, the second season women have had the extra preseason practice time since the NCAA moved the official starting date for women’s basketball up 11 days.

And VanDerveer will need the extra time to sort out the backcourt situation, because freshmen are going to be very much involved in the decisions she makes.

Stanford is set at only two positions — the two post spots occupied by the Ogwumike sisters,  Nneka and Chiney.  Chiney conceivably could move to a wing spot, and Sarah Boothe could become a starter in the post, but Chiney probably is too valuable as as a rebounder and post defender to move her outside on any kind of regular basis.

That means Joslyn Tinkle probably will be the starting small forward, with fellow junior Mikaela Ruef probably getting a serious look at that position after seeing increased playing time late last season.

The focus, though, will be on the two guard spots, particuarly the point-guard position.   VanDerveer had Jeanette Pohlen running the point since the middle of the 2008-2009 season, and you don’t lose a player who was the Pac-10 player of the year and a first-round WNBA draft pick without feeling the effects — especially at the most importat position on the floor.

So VanDerveer and assistant Amy Tucker are looking at three possible replacements for Pohlen at the point.   One is sophomore Toni Kokenis, who started two games at the point early last season when Pohlen was moved to the off-guard spot.   But that experiment ended well before conference play started, and it remains to be seen whether VanDerveer will try Kokenis at the point again, or put her at the off-guard spot, where she can play with a little more abandon and less responsibility, which may suit her style and temperament better.

That would leave the point guard spot to one of two highly touted 5-foot-7 freshmen — Amber Orrange and Jasmine Camp.   Although they are young and experienced, one or both could provide something Stanford has not had in a long time — a quick pure point guard who can break down a defense.

For years, that has been the one weakness of VanDerveer’s teams.   They simply did not have a perimeter player who could beat defenders one-on-one to create her own shot.  Candice Wiggins could do it, but she was never a true point guard.   Jamila Wideman was closer, although she was more of a playmaker than a player who focused on beating her defender to get to the basket .

With Camp, who is from Ellenwood, Ga., and Orrange, who is from Houston, VanDerveer finally may have someone who can do that.    Their speed and playmaking at the point is a new toy for VanDerveer, one she has needed for years.    But since they are freshmen, it’s difficult to know yet whether they can do it at the Pac-12 — yes, the Pac-12 now — level.

VanDerveer might prefer that one of the two freshmen earn the critical point guard spot, so Kokenis could play the off-guard position, because Lindy La Rocque, despite all her contributions as a starter last season, may not fit as well with this year’s squad.   Last season, Stanford had four potential All-Americans surrounding La Rocque in Pohlen, Kayla Pedersen and the Ogwumike sisters.  So Stanford needed only a complementary player at that guard spot — someone willing to pass the ball into the post, hustle on defense, make open three-pointers and minimize mistakes.

The Cardinal may need more out of that position this season, which is why Kokenis seems like the best bet to handle that spot, althoug Ruef could play there too in certain situations.

Freshmen Taylor Greenfield and Alex Green also could figure at the off-guard spot.

It all depends on what happens at point guard.   When VanDerver settles on a starter at that position, a lot of other things can fall into place.   It may take several games before that issue is settled, however.  In fact, it might take much of the season.   And the lineup VanDerveer uses to start the season may not resemble the lineup she uses in March.

You may recall that Pohlen was recruited as a wing player, and she began he Cardinal career as a power forward.  It was not until the injury to JJ Hones early in the 2008-2009 season forced VanDerveer to juggle things around that she put Pohlen at the point.

In many ways, Pohlen was never a true point guard, playing out of position the entire time despite turning out to be the Cardinal’s best play for the first three-quarters of last season.   Pohlen was never a player who could break a defender down off the dribble to create opportunities for hereself and teammates. Stanford may have that now and for the next several years.

We’ll see

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  1. STanFan says:

    "So Stanford needed only a complementary player at that guard spot — someone willing to pass the ball into the post, hustle on defense, make open three-pointers and minimize mistakes. " And this isn't an important member of a successful team? It was only when Tara got frightened that Jeanette might get another foul that she would throw out her game plan and put Toni in the mix. She didn't want Toni coming off the bench cold. Well look what happened at the final game. Jeanette never gets another foul. Toni makes two big turnovers and the starting five that beat UConn is only seen for 4 or 5 minutes of the game. How does that fit with the team?

    • Malcolm says:

      The two Sydneys and Tara White plus a terrific defensive game plan more than compensated for Stanford's size, strength, and intelligence. It will be enjoyable to see what Tara can do with all this new speed and quickness. I predict that by March Stanford will be a whole different ball team – pressing, trapping, overplaying, gambling, stealing, fastbreaking at RPMs never before seen on the Farm. They'll be playing in April again next year.

    • Jake Curtis says:

      Of course, a complementary player is an important part of a team, and I noted La Rocque’s significance to Stanford’s success last season many times. But this is a different team with different needs.

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