Home News Stanford, Tara VanDerveer will look to Kiki Iriafen after ACC leap

Stanford, Tara VanDerveer will look to Kiki Iriafen after ACC leap


Stanford was hoping to make the Elite Eight for the 15th time in the last 20 seasons. It didn’t happen, but short of that, it was a fairly typical year for a team coached by Tara VanDerveer.

In 44 seasons, VanDerveer’s average record is 27-6. Losing 77-67 Friday night to North Carolina State in the Sweet 16 ended the Cardinal’s season at 30-6.

Things change dramatically in terms of geography in 2024-25, with the Pac-12 breaking up in the name of football and dragging every other sport along with it. Stanford will join the Atlantic Coast Conference along with Cal, its crossbay rival.

Meanwhile, USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington will relocate to the Big Ten and Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah move to the Big 12. Washington State and Oregon State are the last two Pac-12 teams standing as the conference looks to rebuild itself in some way, shape or form.

VanDerveer, who turns 71 in June and is the winningest coach in college basketball, has given no indication of walking away with the program facing a new frontier. Nor was she disconsolate at the unhappy ending at the Moda Center.

“For our whole team, I think we have a lot of young players that really I think would learn a lot of from this experience,” VanDerveer said. “I don’t think that anyone on our staff or our team has to hang their head. We’ve had a great year. I’m really proud of everyone.”

While the 2022-23 Cardinal with star player Haley Jones seemed to unravel mentally in a second-round loss to Mississippi State, this year’s team benefitted from some changes in philosophy and attitude. The reason for its departure was purely basketball-related — namely a flood of fouls to twin posts Cameron Brink and Kiki Iriafen — as well as an on-again, off-again game in terms of perimeter scoring to balance its strength inside.

Getting consistent guard play, particularly when it came to scoring, was a season-long issue with senior wing Hannah Jump the closest thing to a consistent threat at 10.6 points per game.

VanDerveer reduced the roster size this season from 15 to 12 and made an effort at improving “connectivity” and teamwork at a base level. When it ended Friday night, Stanford players were as disappointed about being unable to interact with their friends on a daily basis as they were about the loss.

Jump, who finished with a school record 364 3-point baskets, was tearing up at the thought of it being over.

Stanford Cardinal's Hannah Jump (33) takes a 3-point shot against the Iowa State Cyclones in the second quarter during the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif., on Sunday, March 24, 2024. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
Hannah Jump (33) was Stanford’s most consistent outside shooting threat in 2023-24. Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group

“I don’t have a sister, so these are literally my sisters,” Jump said. “To play here has been an honor and a dream since I was a little girl. I’m just so grateful to finish my season with these girls. It’s been the best times on and off the court any minute we’ve spent together.”

Jump wants to keep playing, perhaps internationally. Brink is expected to be the No. 2 pick in the WNBA Draft behind Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, said she felt “lucky and blessed” to have played at Stanford even after fouling out of her last two games — the first time she’d fouled out back-to-back since her freshman year.

It’s clear Iriafen, who emerged as not only Stanford’s best player at the end of the season but as a Player of the Year candidate nationally in 2024-25, will be the one to carry the torch as the Cardinal plays in the ACC. She scored 26 points and had 10 rebounds against the Wolfpack despite playing just 22 minutes with foul trouble.

In six playoff games in the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments, Iriafen averaged 24.0 points and 11.5 rebounds.

“I think it’s just like we’ll never have this group of people again,” Iriafen said. “I think that’s something that I’m realizing. But we’ve had a great season. I love these girls.”

How Stanford fares next season will depend on recruiting as well as how many players follow the lead of Iriafen when it comes to the offseason.

Freshmen who saw playing time included 6-foot-2 forward Nunu Agara, 6-1 Courtney Ogden and 5-9 Chloe Clardy. Point guard Talana Lepolo — who battled through a knee injury that VanDerveer said could require surgery — will be a junior, with Greek import Elena Bosgana and Brooke Demetre entering their senior years.

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here