Any time you have three players with this mixture of talent and experience, you have a very good basketball team. Yet, real questions remain. Where is the size and toughness down low that have for more than a decade been the hallmark of Stanford basketball? Where are the sharpshooters that have complimented the Cardinal’s power basketball philosophy with such effectiveness? And how does the transition go from Mike Montgomery’s highly structured offensive sets to Trent Johnson’s motion offense?
|2005 - 2006 Stanford|
|1||Mitch Johnson||G||6-1||185||Freshman||Seattle, WA|
|3||Carlton Weatherby||G||6-1||180||Junior||Tacoma, WA|
|4||Anthony Goods||G||6-4||170||Freshman||Corona, CA|
|10||Tim Morris||G||6-4||215||Sophomore||Atlanta, GA|
|11||Chris Hernandez||G||6-2||190||Senior||Fresno, CA|
|15||Lawrence Hill||F||6-8||205||Freshman||Glendale, AZ|
|20||Dan Grunfeld||G-F||6-6||215||Senior||River Hills, WI|
|22||Kenny Brown||G||6-1||190||Freshman||Southlake, TX|
|31||Taj Finger||F||6-8||185||Sophomore||Bedford, NY|
|32||Jason Haas||G||6-2||190||Senior||Centre Hall, PA|
|44||Fred Washington||F||6-5||210||Junior||Los Angeles, CA|
|52||Matt Haryasz||F||6-11||230||Senior||Page, AZ|
|55||Peter Prowitt||C||6-10||250||Sophomore||McLean, VA|
"If we are healthy and the seniors provide great leadership and continue to play with commitment to win and not worry about the NBA and those kinds of things, we have a chance to sustain this program's level of excellence," Johnson said.
First the good news: Stanford returns arguably the Pac-10’s best point guard in Chris Hernandez. Strong as a bull with more mental toughness than Jake LaMotta, Hernandez returns for his fifth year on the farm as one of the nation’s best floor generals.
Completely unflappable, Hernandez plays the game with a tenacity and mean streak more reminiscent of big man than a lead guard. Blessed with a deft shooting touch and solid handle, Hernandez has an indomitable will to win.
Spurned by the NBA scouts last spring, Hernandez returns for his senior season
unsure how to overcome the NBA doubts.
“ I'm happy to be returning to Stanford to play my senior year and get my master's degree in sociology," Hernandez said. "This spring was a great learning experience and I am hoping the improvements I made will carry over."
At best 6-1 and with only decent quickness, Hernandez is likely to join the ranks of many great college basketball players who weren’t blessed with the physical attributes necessary to play in the NBA. A good but not great defender, Hernandez is a much better scorer when he is not the primary scoring option.
That shouldn’t prove to be an issue for Stanford as he is joined by fellow seniors Dan Grunfeld and Matt Haryasz. Grunfeld is an enigma. He doesn’t even remotely look like the scoring machine that he has become. A step slow and not blessed with either a pure stroke from deep or great leaping ability, Grunfeld uses his strong body and very good ball handling skills to create space and scoring opportunities. A good but not great shooter, he can beat you if you lay off him but is at his best off the dribble. He’s nearly impossible to defend once he’s able to get leverage on the defender with his body. Much more coordinated and agile than one would think given the eyeball test, he can exploit the smallest crack in the defense.
Like Hernandez, Grunfeld is not a great defender although he does rebound the ball well. He’ll need to focus on that aspect of his game as the Cardinal are in need of help on the boards as well as low post defense. Matt Haryasz gives Stanford a very skilled and athletic big man. The senior is comfortable facing the basket out to 18 feet and compliments his shooting touch with nice footwork down low. More of a finesse big man than a power player, Haryasz is only a decent rebounder and a mediocre defender especially against stronger post players. Given the depleted ranks of Pac-10 bigs, Matt should have no trouble averaging 15+ points and 8+ rebounds this season.
The drop off after the top three is marked and a concern for coach Johnson. While the cupboard is not bare in terms of athletes and size, beyond the “big three” it’s hard to find what one would describe as a typical Stanford player. Gone are the veteran big men of limited athletic skill but infinite guile and toughness a la Joe Kirchofer. Nowhere to be found is the bruising enforcer in the mold of Andrew Vlahov or Mark Madsen. And Johnson will have to look long and hard to find any long distance shooting beyond Hernandez and Grunfeld.
Tim Morris is the likely candidate to start next to Hernandez in the backcourt. Morris has nice athleticism and prior to being ruled academically ineligible last season showed flashes of scoring ability most of which came via slashes to the hoop. Morris is not a ball handler nor does he represent much of a threat from deep. Although he has the body and the athleticism to be a shut down defender, that part of his game has yet to emerge. Jason Haas and Mitch Johnson round out the guards. Haas is a classic overachiever who gives it everything he has every time on the court. A decent ball handler when not pressured, Haas can occasionally stick the open three and rarely makes a mental mistake with the ball. He’s limited in terms of athleticism and skill and is not likely to be used beyond giving Hernandez a brief blow.
Johnson is a freshman point guard out of Seattle with a reputation as a savvy floor leader and a winner. Short of stature and limited in terms of speed and quickness, Mitch is still several steps above Haas in terms of ability. Over time, it’s likely he will prove to be another in a long line of tough as nails Cardinal point guards.
Stanford is even thinner up front. Literally. Paul Prowitt, Taj Finger and Lawrence Hill are all 6’8”+ but none of them are going to be stunt doubles for Arnold Schwarzenegger any time soon. Hill has the most talent but is a raw freshman at least a year away from being a regular contributor. Finger is likely to start but is better suited to score than to rebound and defend given his razor thin body. Prowitt offers a more robust physique than either Hill or Finger but is less athletic than the former and less skilled than the latter. Johnson adds,
“Peter is going to have to step up. There's no question about that. All of our big guys will have to. We'll probably be smaller than we have been in the past, but we'll be quicker."
Fred Washington will be Grunfeld’s primary backup but could also see time at the power forward slot. After Grunfeld went down last season, Washington stepped in and at times played admirably. More of an undersized inside player than true wing, Washington has good athleticism but is limited in his shooting range. He may end up being the most important player after the big three. If anyone is likely to provide the defensive and rebounding presence off the bench for Stanford it’s Washington.
The Cardinal are off to a rough start early in the season, something that’s not altogether unheard of for Trent Johnson coached teams which have almost always finished the season strong. However, the outside shooting and defensive concerns that were present when Stanford began the season, have all been worse than imagined. It’s hard to believe those won’t get corrected or that the big three will allow this slide to continue. Yet, it’s easier to see this years version as a middle of the conference finisher rather than a contender for the title.
Stanford will finish 5th.
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