Lombardi's Look Back/Ahead: Cal and Verhoeven

The Bootleg's newest contributor, David Lombardi, checks in with his look back at Stanford's loss versus Cal in Los Angeles, along with a look at the future with Grant Verhoeven in the lineup starting in 2012.

Stanford's 77-71 loss to California at the Pac-12 tournament was a microcosm of the Cardinal's 2011-2012 basketball season: it featured a hot start, a lack of mental and physical toughness that led to a second half collapse, and a last gasp in garbage time described only by the words "too little, too late."

Just four days after convincingly defeating the Golden Bears, the fickle Cardinal were convincingly beaten by them in a game that wouldn't have even been close had Andrew Zimmerman not unconsciously connected for a fluky 22 points. God bless the Beard's hustle, but Big Z is not a scorer.

The only consistent facet of the current version of Stanford basketball is its inconsistency. To reach the next level, this program is in desperate need of a high-motor, full-throttle, steadying influence. Cardinal fans shouldn't despair, because there's a special one coming at just the right time.

Just be patient, because Grant Verhoeven is currently busy carrying his team toward a California State Championship. Wednesday, the 6'9 (and growing) Stanford recruit terrorized Campbell Hall (North Hollywood) with 39 points, 22 rebounds, 10 blocks, and two steals.

This came just four days after I had the chance to scout him for the second time this season at his Central Section championship game, a contest in which he inflicted even more damage: 41 points, 26 rebounds, and one completely obliterated media table. Along with the accompanying advertisement banner, the table was torn apart when Verhoeven barreled into it after a remarkable save with his team ahead by 20 points.

He proceeded to immediately spring out of the mangled carnage and score on the other end of the floor within seven seconds. It's safe to say that Stanford's softness issue is about to be solved. Just let the Big Dutchman finish his work in the San Joaquin Valley first.

Here's my initial February scouting report of Verhoeven, written after I traveled three hours south to Visalia to watch him play in regular season action (Article Here) Below is my quarter-by-quarter log, written while watching him play this past Saturday in downtown Fresno's Selland Arena:

Verhoeven tells me that he just likes to "work" defenders, and he immediately shows what he means by that. Easy deuce against the triple team, followed by a turnaround baby hook to show off the touch he has inherited from his father, former NBA player Pete Verhoeven. The first quarter also includes a display of Grant's court awareness on a weakside putback, his speed when he outruns everyone on the floor - including guards - for a coast-to-coast layup, and a block that looks a lot like a volleyball spike.
The complete package is on display early, folks.

Verhoeven's impressive first quarter display was only the appetizer. The second frame features 16 more points, including another coast-to-coast transition dunk preceded by nifty ball-handling from the 6-foot-9 big man. There's range, too: how about that step-back jumper from 15 feet? Swish. Now, some hunger on the offensive glass with a tip-in and now...Oh. My. Goodness. Quick baseline move and right-handed jam over two defenders. This just isn't fair. 24 at halftime for Johnny Dawkins' future savior.

If the second quarter was the main course, then Verhoeven is serving up two entrees on this Saturday afternoon. The third frame features more domination against constant triple teams, and even a professional-quality touch pass in transition. Then there's the remarkable save with his Central Valley Christian (CVC) team pulling ahead, straight into the courtside media tables. How about that for an extraordinary effort and disregard for a violent collision, followed up with a quick recovery and a score seven seconds later? That nose for the ball - and the basket - has been exactly what has been missing for Stanford this season.

More of the same before his removal from the game, which has become a laugher. Another thunderous dunk, another block, and it's 76-49, Grant Verhoeven's CVC team wins its Central Section final. In two scouting sessions, the only weakness I have seen is his free throw shooting (9-18 versus Campbell Hall).

But the final line from the section title game: 41 points, 26 rebounds for the big man. That's the most points ever scored by a player in the 99-year history of the Central Section championship.

And, as it turns out, just what the doctor ordered next season for Stanford basketball.

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