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November 19, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, November 19, 2004

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

Little means a lot Little means a lot (November 19, 2004)

Stanford senior looks like the center of Cardinal hopes

by Rick Eymer

Stanford senior basketball center Rob Little has a simple request: He wants a chance to meet with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, the former Stanford provost.

"I would like to take this time to publicly say: Dr. Rice could I please just have 30 minutes of your time. I'll give you tickets to any game you want! Dr. Rice's track record speaks for itself. She is a brilliant woman that may in fact be calling the shots one day as president."

Tonight's season opener would be a good bet for tickets as Stanford prepares to open its season with a new coach in Trent Johnson, a former Cardinal assistant.

Stanford meets USF at 8:30 p.m. in the second game of a doubleheader at the Pete Newell Challenge at The Arena in Oakland.

Johnson is familiar with the program, having served under Mike Montgomery between 1996-99 - years in which Stanford reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and Final Four - before accepting the head job at Nevada.

Johnson fared well with the Wolf Pack too, leading them to last year's Sweet Sixteen.

While Stanford lost four players from last year's 30-2 team, three to graduation and Josh Childress to the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA, there's still plenty of talent for Johnson to mold into winners.

Little (6-10, 260) and forward Nick Robinson (6-6, 205) are the lone seniors this year, but juniors Matt Haryasz (6-11, 230), Chris Hernandez (6-2, 190), Dan Grunfeld (6-4, 215) and Jason Haas (6-2, 190) are back to give Stanford plenty of experience.

And there's also crowd favorite, junior Carlton Weatherby (6-1, 180).

Sophomore Fred Washington (6-5, 210) will see increased time this year, and sophomores Evan Moore (6-7, 235) and Mark Bradford (6-2, 205) will join the team again once the football season ends on Saturday.

Tim Morris (6-4, 215) returns as a redshirt freshman, while Taj Finger (6-8, 185) and Peter Prowitt (6-10, 250) are the freshman newcomers.

It's a team capable of defending its Pac-10 title. Stanford has finished first or second every year since its third place finish in 1996. The Cardinal were tabbed to finish third in a preseason poll behind favorite Arizona and Washington.

Hernandez, a preseason All-American pick, will direct an offense that has plenty of scoring weapons. Robinson, who played four different positions last year, is the unquestioned leader of the team. He's the oldest player, at age 25, and oozes a sense of quiet confidence.

Robinson has been nicknamed "Pops" ever since he and his wife, Meagan, delivered their first child last March.

Little probably has a nickname too. Just call him "Senator."

Little, who has given opponents fits the past three seasons and is seventh on the Cardinal career blocks list with 69, wants to settle into politics once he leaves Stanford.

The native of Hampton, Va., would like nothing better than to represent his state in the senate some day.

"The Senate would be my ultimate political goal," Little said. "I think it is good to be passionate about something that is close to you and that means a lot, and Virginia is that thing for me."

Meanwhile, this November still belongs to Stanford, academics and basketball. Little, a two-time All-Pac-10 Academic selection, is participating in his fourth Pete Newell Challenge. He understands the impact Newell has made on the game, and his own development as a player.

Stanford associate head coach Eric Reveno, a former Menlo School and Stanford center himself, has been coaching at Newell's Big Man camp the past five years.

"When you talk about coach Rev, you have to think about the big guys he has helped coach at Stanford and who been drafted in the NBA: Tim Young, Mark Madsen, Jarron Collins, Jason Collins, and Curtis Borchardt, all in the last five years," Little said. "He has got be considered one the best big-man coaches in the college basketball. Rev definitely does Pete Newell drills with us. It's like getting the Pete Newell Big Man camp for free every spring. He does not just tell you what you are doing, but he breaks it down as to why and what defensive reads each offensive move is designed to attack."

Reveno has spent countless hours with Little over the years helping refining his game.

"Rob has a great work ethic and he's improved himself fundamentally," Reveno said. "His style of play matches his character. He takes advantage of things he has, like his jump hook and his broad shoulders."

As for his political aspirations, Reveno is certainly aware of Little's influence in the Stanford community.

"He's naturally a leader," Reveno said. "He's good with people and he likes people. He tends to get involved in things. If he disagrees, he's very vocal and will let you know about it. He's also very well-read and up on current events."

Little's double major of political science and philosophy will likely serve him well should he turn to politics.

"The public service aspect of it is very appealing," Little said. "My ideal way of giving back would be through politics and effecting social justice and social change at the systemic level. A country divided will never mend its wounds and take steps forward as a world leader. I am hoping that my generation, the generation of 9-11, understands that in order to overcome our terrorist foes and be the great country that we should become, we must first put to rest our petty partisan bickering."

Little has met the four Supreme Court Justices who attended Stanford, beginning with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"Meeting her was one of the greatest honors of my life," Little said. "First of all, she was very gracious to give me time. Justice O'Connor is a very gentile woman, but at the same time she commands a great deal of respect and power. She reminded me of your favorite grandmother that you love to always visit."

Justice O'Connor was rewarded with a basketball and team picture signed by everybody on the team. Afterward, she personally escorted Little to the offices of the other three Stanford alums: Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

"I learned from Justice O'Connor that people are the most important thing in life and taking the time to be kind to even the most random individual is a very important duty," Little said. "All those justices could be anywhere making millions of dollars at big law firms, but they chose to serve our country, and that says a lot about who they are."

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