Stanford basketball preview

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Stanford basketball preview

HISTORY
From 1995 to 2004 Stanford made 10 straight NCAA Tournaments, including a Sweet 16 in 97, the Final Four in 98, a No. 1 seed in 00 and 01, the Elite 8 in 01, and another No. 1 seed in 04. Not a bad decade. Throw in tournament appearances in 2005 and 2007, as well as a Sweet 16 appearance in 2008 and youre talking about one of the best programs in the country over a 15-year period. In April 2008, longtime Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins took over for the LSU-bound Trent Johnson. Dawkins inherited a program that lost three seniors to graduation, in addition to first-round NBA draft picks Brook and Robin Lopez. In his first year, Stanford won 20 games, making Dawkins the winningest first-year coach in school history.
Entering his second season, the Cardinal were picked to finish last in the Pac-10. They exceeded expectations by finishing seventh, and advanced to the Semifinals of the conference tournament. LAST SEASON
When a roster is comprised of zero seniors, five juniors, one sophomore, and nine freshmen, you can consistently count on inconsistence. That defined last years Stanford team. At times the Cardinal looked NCAA Tournament caliber (81-60 win over Virginia, 82-68 win over Cal, 58-56 win over No. 17 Washington, tied with No. 21 Arizona with 4 minutes left). And at other times, well, it was the opposite (83-50 loss at Butler, 22 percent FG in 65-42 loss at USC, 74-55 loss at Cal). At one point Stanford stood at 3-1 in conference (tied for first), was coming off an upset victory over the No. 17 Washington Huskies, and led Washington State by nine at the half. The Cardinal ultimately fell to the Cougars, and subsequently lost three in a row to drop to 3-5 in conference. They never recovered. Leading scorer Jeremy Green (16.7 ppg) elected to forego his senior year and enter the 2011 NBA Draft. He went undrafted. How will Stanford fare without him? 2011-2012 SEASON PREVIEW
Stanford is definitely going to miss Jeremy Greens ability to make contested 26-foot 3-pointers, as well as his ability to score in bunches. However, the Cardinal have several players who are ready to take the torch and lead Stanford back to the upper echelon of the Pac-12). PROJECTED STARTERSPG: Aaron Bright (sophomore) -- Started eight games as a freshman, went 5-for-5 from beyond the arc at Oregon State, and shot 89 percent from the free-throw line (32-36). His problems last year were decision-making, and on-ball defense. He did a great job at pressuring opposing point guards and maintaining a five-second count, but wasnt able to keep quicker guards in front of him. However, since practice started on Oct. 14, Bright has been a bright spot and has played his way into the starting lineup. PGSG: Chasson Randle (freshman) -- The highly touted Illinois product should start from Day 1. He has blazing speed and quickness, and can break his defender down off the dribble at will. Everyone around him immediately becomes a better player when he is on the court. Look for the ball to be in his hands at the end of the shot clock, and when Dawkins wants to go small, Randles ability to play off the ball affords Stanford the ability to play point guard Aaron Bright and Randle together. SF: Dwight Powell (sophomore) -- The 69 versatile forward is a matchup nightmare. He showed flashes last season, but that all-important word -- inconsistency -- specifically foul trouble, plagued him. He has worked very hard on his jump shot this offseason, but he will do most of his damage in transition and in the post. No small forward will be able to match up with him inside and if he plays strong and embraces contact, he should live at the free throw line. He will also see time at power forward when Stanford plays a smaller lineup. PF: Josh Owens (RS senior) -- He is a physical specimen who could give Dwight Howard a run for his money in a dunk contest. He should average 15 points and 8 rebounds per game, along with six to eight free throw attempts every night. You wont find a better teammate or more unselfish player, which explains why he hesitates to demand the ball in the post at times. He is the only player on the roster who was on Stanfords last NCAA Tournament team in 07-08. C: Andrew Zimmermann (RS senior) -- You may not recognize the undisputed vocal leader of the team because he will be sporting a Paul Bunyan-like beard. In practice, you want this guy on your team at all times. However, his practice success hasnt always translated to game success. The two-year captain does all of the dirty work, but cant shoot himself in the foot with unforced turnovers. If he plays within his capabilities, he will be on the floor down the stretch when it matters most. OTHER KEY RETURNEES
SG: Anthony Brown (sophomore) -- Like the team as a whole, he was inconsistent last season. He made his first career start in the teams 9th conference game against Oregon State and responded with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 steals. The next game 3 points and 3 rebounds, followed by 12, 15, 15, and then 4 points respectively. You get the idea. Theres no reason why he shouldnt be a starter and one the Cardinals best players in 11-12. The physical tools and ability are there, but he needs to play tougher and adopt a killer instinct (think Landry Fields). SF: Jarrett Mann (senior) -- He too could end up in the starting lineup as he provides the Cardinal with outstanding perimeter defense and the ability to get to the rim. However, his biggest question mark is well chronicled can he make his free throws? Through the first 12 games last year he shot 37, then seemed to figure it out by going 72 the next 11 games, but finished at 29 the final 8 games (49, 60-122 on the season). In practice he has been much more vocal than in years past and his teammates are listening. SFPF: Josh Huestis (sophomore) -- A power forward in high school who transitioned to the wing as a freshman, he is shooting the ball very well in practice and is a rebounding machine. Made key contributions in a handful of games last season, but will be a significant contributor throughout the entire 2011-2012 season. Although he is 67, he can match up with smaller guards and will frustrate opposing players with his size and length. PF: John Gage (sophomore) -- If he has time and space, you might as well add three points to the scoreboard immediately. At 69 he stretches the defense and is instant offense off the bench. He has become more comfortable in the post, developing a nice fadeaway jumper, but his calling card is from three-point territory. Can he guard stronger, more physical guys in the post? We shall seePFC: Stefan Nastic (redshirt freshman) -- A legit 7-footer, he redshirted last season with a foot injury. Nobody has a better work ethic or eats, breathes, and sleeps basketball like Nastic does. The big concern can he stay healthy? PF: Jack Trotter (senior) -- After walking-on his freshman year, Trotter has been on scholarship ever since. He averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds as a sophomore in 09-10, and he and Landry Fields were the only two Cardinal players to start all 32 games. He started 12 games last season, and will now see his minutes coming off the bench. SG: Gabe Harris (junior) -- Has played primarily point guard his first two seasons on The Farm but moved off the ball at the end of last season. During spring and summer workouts, he was one of Stanfords best players. However, a minor knee surgery in August prevented him from accompanying the team on its trip to Spain, halting his off-season momentum. SF: Andy Brown (RS ?) -- The question mark is not a typo. Brown is in his third year in the program, but has red-shirted the past two seasons. He initially tore his right ACL in February of his senior year in high school. He tore it again in November, 2009, and for a third time in August, 2010. After deciding to rehab and give it one more shot, the training staff is being overly cautious this time around. There is no definitive time table for his return. SG: Robbie Lemons (sophomore) -- The recruited walk-on will see limited time as a 3-point specialist. He most likely will not appear on opposing teams scouting reports (unless they read this) which could enable him to see some open looks. SCHEDULEStanford, Syracuse, Oklahoma State, and Virginia Tech are scheduled to meet at Madison Square Garden over Thanksgiving in the Preseason NIT. However, the Cardinal will need to win back-to-back home games against Fresno State, followed by the winner of Colorado StateSMU if they want to visit the Big Apple. The North Carolina State Wolfpack travel to Maples Pavilion on Dec. 4, followed by the reigning two-time National Runner-Up Butler Bulldogs on December 22. PREDICTIONThe pieces are in place for Stanford to enjoy its best season under Dawkins. After losing Green, the national media has Stanford slated to finish 6th in the inaugural Pac-12.While that is a fair assessment, the Cardinal will instead finish the regular season 21-9 overall, 11-7 conference (4th), NCAA TournamentDrew Shiller is a Web Producer for CSNBayArea.com. You can follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.

Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.

NFL teams love it.

Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.

"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."

These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.

"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.

Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.

"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."

The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.

McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.

"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."

Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.

McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."

He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.

"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."

Not a burden.

"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.

He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.

"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.

That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.

The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.

"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.

Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."

JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.

JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.

ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.

JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.

ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.

DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."

CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.

ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

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Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.