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November 19, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, November 19, 2004

Women's Basketball Women's Basketball (November 19, 2004)

Senior leadership the key for Stanford Senior leadership the key for Stanford (November 19, 2004)

Return of King Borchardt is among the many reasons why Cardinal looks to have another successful season

by Rick Eymer

Susan King Borchardt was jogging one day last spring when she just decided to return for her fifth year at Stanford.

Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer got a message late that King Borchardt wanted to talk.

"It was a Friday, so I had to wait all weekend before she came in to tell me," VanDerveer recalled. "We had never really talked about it so I was prepared for the worse. I didn't have an idea of what she wanted to do."

No one involved in the basketball program would have blamed King Borchardt for leaving. After all, she had already spent nearly a year living apart from her husband, former Stanford star Curtis Borchardt, who now plays in the NBA with the Utah Jazz, and the couple purchased a home in Utah.

"Last spring I took a step back to really think about it," King Borchardt said. "It's an opportunity not many girls have in the country; to play at a place I've looked at since I was 10."

Needless to say, that Monday meeting in VanDerveer's office went well.

"I was kind of shocked and very pleasantly surprised," VanDerveer said. "She's a great competitor and I can't wait for her to have a great year. She's a leader on this team and this could be her best year. It was great news."

King Borchardt's return gives Stanford one of its most experienced teams ever, and one that is not only expected to contend for its fifth straight Pac-10 title, but to make another deep run into the NCAA tournament.

"We expect to go every year but we don't take it for granted," King Borchardt said. "We earn it every year. We know the finish is not a guarantee."

King Borchardt is one of five seniors on the team, which also includes Pinewood grad Sebnem Kimyacioglu, preseason all-Pac-10 pick Kelley Suminski, T'Nae Thiel and Azella Perryman.

The seniors have combined for 467 games, and 320 starts.

"The seniors set the pace in practice," VanDerveer said. "There's a sense of urgency that it's this year. We have one of the most athletic teams I've ever had. We're going to be a much more aggressive team, and a deep team. We just need everyone to be healthy."

King Borchardt has a stress reaction in her left foot, and didn't play in the exhibition games. She will be sidelined once again when the seventh-ranked Cardinal open their season at Utah tonight.

Stanford's home opener is Sunday against Pacific, to be played at Santa Clara's Leavey Center at 2 p.m.

Suminski and King Borchardt leads a veteran group of guards that also include juniors Krista Rappahahn and Claire Bodensteiner. Suminski and King Borchardt are both four-year starters.

Kimyacioglu, a third-year starter, and Thiel, a fourth-year starter, gives the Cardinal plenty of leadership at the forward position.

Kimyacioglu will be looking to expand her game a little more this year to take advantage of her shooting skills and her ability to rebound.

"She had a great off season," VanDerveer said. "She's a great team player and she's doing well. She needs to take the ball out of the basket and score in different ways. She needs to finish strong and defend for us."

Perryman started for most of her sophomore season, but injuries cut into her playing time last year. She still started a handful of games and proved herself off the bench. She gives the Cardinal depth at both forward and center along with junior transfer Brooke Smith, and junior Shelley Nweke.

The 6-foot-3 Smith sat out last season after transferring from Duke, and is now ready to pay dividends for Stanford.

"She has a plethora of moves," VanDerveer said. "The girl can score. To be a great player, it's about being stronger and more physical. She has committed herself to defense. She's a smart player and an excellent passer."

Sophomore Kristen Newlin, named to the all-Pac-10 freshman team last year, is another solid player who can start and hold her own in the post at 6-5. She blocked 50 shots, including a school record eight against Washington State, a year ago.

She is joined by sophomore center Eziamaka Okafor, who has been plagued by injuries her first two years. Eastside Prep grad Markisha Coleman also returns to add a spark.

"She's quick and she's working hard at practice," VanDerveer said. "She's athletic and she creates havoc."

Freshman Candice Wiggins was the biggest prize of the recruiting season, and leads a talented group of newcomers who will make significant contributions.

Wiggins is joined by freshmen Jessica Elway (yes, of that Elway family), Christy Titchenal, and Cissy Pierce.

Wiggins, whose late father Alan played in the Major Leagues, was regarded as one of the top high school players in the nation last year and is blessed with athletic ability.

"She plays with great intensity and displays a great presence on the court," VanDerveer said. "She has blinding speed and quickness. She will play a lot whether she starts or not."

Elway will likely contribute right away as well. She can play guard or forward, and like her famous father, John, she has great vision on the court.

"We will be able to play 10 or 11 people every game," VanDerveer said. "The limelight will be shared by a lot of players. People are catching on quickly and that makes for exciting competition. If you want to play, you have to play defense."

Stanford was picked to finish in a first-place tie with Arizona in the Pac-10. The two schools shared the title last year but the Cardinal won the conference tournament.

Stanford's season ended with a 62-60 loss to Tennessee in the Midwest Regional Final. The Cardinal were so close to reaching the Final Four, that it could be motivation enough this year to take the extra step.

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