Revamped Stanford roster set to meet high expectations

The Stanford women’s basketball team comes into the season as the No. 2 ranked team in the country. The motivation for this upcoming season should be to win the NCAA championship. The Cardinal have all the necessary pieces to take it all, but the end result depends on how well the new players gel together.

Stanford found out what it was like to lose in the Final Four last spring, after winning the title the previous year, and it was a disappointing feeling.

“Up until last year when we lost in the Final Four,” senior forward Fran Belibi said. “We had only known what it was like to win. So it was disappointing for us, because to go out on a loss is really something you never want to do for yourself, seniors and the team.”

Moving on

The Cardinal will need to replace three starting guards from last year’s team, as Anna Wilson, Lexie Hull and Lacie Hull graduated. In addition, a lot of defense and leadership have moved on, and will be hard to replace. But the team has some returning players that can lead them.

Returners

Two standouts return, in senior guard Haley Jones and junior forward Cameron Brink. Jones was co-Pac-12 player of the year last season, and will most likely be Stanford’s primary ball handler in 2022-2023. Brink was her co-Pac-12 player of the year, as well as the Pac-12 defensive player of the year. She has been working on her perimeter shot to enhance her skill set. Also returning is senior forward Fran Belibi, who will be taking a more significant role with the team this year, as coach Tara VanDerveer will orchestrate a more post-oriented offense. 

“Being able to step into an offense that is a little easier to learn, and a little more simplistic has been really nice,” Belibi said. “For example, me and Kiki [Iriafen] did not get to play a whole lot together last year, but this offense allows us to do that. It is a lot of fun playing with all the post-players.”

Senior guard Hannah Jump returns, and she will provide outside shooting for the Cardinal. Agnes Emma-Nnopu, Elena Bosganna, and Ashen Prechtel should see more playing time, and sophomores Kiki Iriafen and Brooke Demetre should be ready to step up and take their game to the next level.

Stanford will go as far as Jones and Brink take them, as both will play a lot of minutes.

“I tell our team that it’s not going to be an equal opportunity — Haley and Cam are going to play a lot. But everyone is important and we’ll need everyone,” VanDerveer said. “You’re always going to have people not available for certain games, and I think we really try to value every single person on our team, no matter what contribution they can make, and we’re counting on our players to be very mature.”

New players

Like every year, Stanford has many young talented players coming in. This season they have added the No. 1 recruit in the country, Lauren Betts, who should be able to contribute immediately. She is 6-8 and averaged 17.2 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.6 blocks, and 3.5 assists per game while leading her Grandview High team to a state title. 

A crew of guards – Indya Nivar, Talaana Lepolo, Stavi Papadaki, and Lauren Green – will add depth to the backcourt.

“I’m really excited about [Nivar and Lepolo],” VanDerveer said, adding that Lepolo is “as good a freshman point guard as we’ve ever had at Stanford … I don’t even think of them as freshmen.”

Conclusion 

The Cardinal have a lot of new faces that could mean depth if the newcomers learn quickly. If they are able to develop chemistry with the veterans, they could make another run at the championship in April.