Immediately after the Friday night game, I sat down with Gold-Onwude to ask the fifth-year senior some questions about her Stanford career. This will come as no surprise to Stanford fans, but Rosalyn is eloquent, speaks from the heart without a trace of guile, and is in every respect a beautiful conversation partner. The Friday evening interview is set forth here, with a Sunday afternoon postscript.
The Bootleg: You've been on the team for five seasons, longer than any other player, and longer than some of the assistant coaches. How do you see the team has changed over the last five years?
GO: You know, it's funny you say that, I've have been here longer than some of the coaches. I actually think that their arrival here has made our team so much better. I think that, not only is the team working hard, I think that we're happier. Nothing against the other coaches, who were excellent coaches. So we laugh at the dinner table, we laugh at practices. It's just a different dynamic.
TB: You have more fun?
GO: Yeah, we have more fun. I really credit the new assistant coaches.
TB: How have you changed?
GO: How have I changed? I think I get the offenses. I understand why we are running offenses, not just how to do it. I know Tara, I know what she's looking for. I know what to expect too. It's like a farewell chorus.
TB: How do you keep your focus over a long season or over five years?
GO: Through games or through practice?
TB: Through the whole thing.
GO: I think that during practices, if there is a day I'm not excited about practice for some reason.or another, I remind myself that this is my last year. I won't have this day again. . . . And in games, each game is an individual moment for me. I'm excited about games. I'm never tired about games.
TB: Do your teammates help keep you motivated?
GO: Oh yeah, we are like a family. Like everybody [talks to] … each other. Some people get down. You got to go over there and pick her up. Cheer her up. On the court, we talk. We hang out! We like each other!
TB: It shows. Can you single out a player that you have helped, or that has helped you, during the five years?
GO: I feel like the point guards all help each other out. I feel like Jeanette and I work together when running the point guard. I remember with the ACLs, JJ and I became very close in dealing with our knee injuries – and reach all the way back to when Candice Wiggins was playing here, how much I learned from her as a player. And still to this day, there are things that I try to do thinking of Candice.
TB: Two years ago, when Stanford was in the semifinal game against Connecticut, the network gave each of the ten starters a 20-second window to introduce themselves. When you got your 20-second window, you talked about other players you played with in New York and how you were playing with them. I was touched by the fact that you mentioned other people in your introduction.
GO: Thank you. Every single person that I shouted out, I shouted out every gym I played in; every coach, all the players. Because, to get where I am now, I would have been nothing without my teammates. It's surprising how people fall into different roles as they move to higher levels, but each player on our team, regardless of whether they play 40 minutes or no minutes, was the success story of their town, their city. And I wanted to recognize people who have always rooted for me.
TB: Personal goals for the season?
GO: Well, I'd like to win a national championship with our team. That would make me very happy. I'd like to make it a consistent season. And it would be very pleasant to consistently knock down some shots. If I have a 20-point game… well, not even 20 let's just have a 12-point game. (Laughs.)
TB: Your career high is 17?
GO: It's 17. … It's okay though, I get really excited about the defense. So that makes me happy too.
TB: Your fans appreciate your defense, your rebounding, and lots of other things you do for the team. Do you see basketball in your life after Stanford?
GO: I imagine staying connected with sports, perhaps through broadcasting. I don't know if basketball is in my future. But I'd love to, it would be a blessing, it would be a dream.
TB: You have a way with words -- One of my favorite quotes is your statement, when asked about your relationship with Tara, that you were in counseling.
Whatever counseling might have occurred must have been effective. Sunday afternoon at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA threatened and rattled Stanford with a second-half comeback, cutting the Stanford lead to two points with under a minute on the clock and the ball in Bruin hands. With just seconds left on the clock, a UCLA fade-away bounced off the rim and into a leaping Nneka Ogwumike's hands. A subsequent tie-up gave the ball to Stanford and it was inbounded to Gold-Onwude. She was immediately fouled and made two free throws for the final four point margin.
What's more, Gold-Onwude had a career day, scoring 18 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the three-point line. Her outside shooting (on a day when others had difficulty from the perimeter), her defense, and her 4-of-4 shooting from the foul line were critical to the hard-fought victory.
Coach Van Derveer brought Nneka Ogwumike and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude to the post game press conference. The coach lamented the turnovers, the inability to put down open shots, the foul difficulties of Jayne Appel and Ogwumike that forced each to sit for significant portions of the second half, and the team's lack of competitive edge, but praised Ogwumike (21 points and nine rebounds) and Gold-Onwude for their critical game-saving plays. When asked about her career day, Gold-Onwude credited Coach Van Derveer for helping instill confidence in her shooting.
Los Angeles Weekend Notes
Nneka Ogwumike, a player who was not selected as the Pac-10's Freshman POY last year, continued on pace to be the league's POY this season. Against USC, she had 21 points and 12 boards; against UCLA, playing only 22 minutes because of fouls, Ogwumike again had 21 points along with nine boards. Her 11-of-12 foul shooting (4-of-4 in the final two minutes) was pivotal in holding off UCLA's game-ending surge. For her efforts, Ogwumike became the Pac-10 Player of the Week for the third time this season.
Kayla Pedersen had 24 points and a game-high 14 boards against USC. Against UCLA, she played all 40 minutes and was a clear steadying influence. On defense, she matched up with the tallest and the shortest, guarding 5'3" Mariah Williams for a stint in the first half. Pedersen occasionally brought the ball up court, played the post when Appel and Ogwumike were on the bench with fouls, and had a game-high 12 boards along with 4 assists. Her outside shooting was off, but she was 4-of-4 from the charity stripe to record six points.
Jeanette Pohlen recovered from a shooting slump to make two critical three-point shots in the second half against UCLA. She was a steadying influence with seven assists against USC and four against UCLA. In the final seconds of the UCLA game, Pohlen is credited with blocking Doreena Campbell's jump shot. In the post game press conference, UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell said she thought Campbell had been fouled. But Campbell, when handed the mike, downplayed this, saying only that her wrist might have been "brushed."
Stanford continues to use its power forward to inbound the ball after opponent baskets. Usually, that's Nneka Ogwumike. That seems sound, given that the power forward is often near the goal and given that Jayne Appel has been repeatedly outhustling the defense for transition baskets. But Nneka is the fastest "wide receiver" on the team and could be a real problem for the other team's transition defense. A thought for the day: would assigning the inbound pass to someone else allow Ogwumike to be turned loose in transition?
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