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Autumn Johnson | November 9, 2020

Tara VanDerveer enters 2020-21 season 4 wins away from matching Pat Summitt

Tara VanDerveer enters 2020-21 season 4 wins away from matching Pat Summitt

Four games.

That's how many wins Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer is away from becoming tied for the winningest coach in women's basketball history. This milestone (1,098 wins) is currently held by the late Pat Summitt during her time at Tennessee.

There's virtually no doubt VanDerveer will match and then break the record early in the 2020-21 season. It could have been broken last season if the spread of the coronavirus did not cancel the NCAA tournament.

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VanDerveer hasn't thought about the milestone. Instead, she's been excited about the opportunity to be back on the court with her team.

"It was really disappointing to not be able to continue our season last year," she said. "Not for any record, but for our players. Especially our seniors who didn't get to go to the NCAA tournament ...  and our freshmen not having the experience of playing in the NCAA tournament, so I think that what was most disappointing. Honestly, I'm so thankful that we're in the gym practicing that I haven't even thought about games."

VanDerveer also became the first coach in DI women's college basketball history to earn 500 wins in a single conference last season. 

This is could be a special year for Stanford as a whole. The Cardinal enter the season as a Pac-12 favorite after tying for second in the conference last season.

The difference-maker this year will be keeping all players healthy and on the floor. Although Stanford had a successful season, injured key players — like Haley Jones — plagued the Cardinal. After making 13 starts in the season's first 18 games, Jones' standout freshman season was cut short due to a knee injury. 

"She's back, she's practicing and she looks better than ever," VanDerveer said. "We're really counting on her to make her major contributions. Along with a lot of our returners. We really matured a lot, so I'm excited about that." 

Experience from the 'Funky Four' sophomores —  Jones, Francesca Belibi, Hannah Jump and Ashten Prechtel — will boost Stanford's winning formula. VanDerveer said she's already noticed the young group's off-season commitment translate on the court in preparation for the Nov. 25 tip-off. 

Kiana Williams and Lexie Hull will lead Stanford's offensive attack. As a sophomore, Hull led the Cardinal in rebounding and steals, while ranking second in points. As the lone starting senior, Williams led Stanford in points, assists and made three-pointers. Knowing this will be Williams' last run to the NCAA championship, VanDerveer has noticed a skill shine through beyond her game. 

"I'm really excited about how she's more vocal, and she's really being a great senior leader," she said. "Really helping all of the freshmen, but she's competing out there. Obviously we need to ramp it up, not quickly, but we got to ramp it up, because in another month we will be playing games, but she's definitely our team leader." 

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In addition to the veteran leadership, more exciting pieces have been added to the puzzle. Stanford brought in the No. 3 recruit in the country in McDonald All-American Cameron Brink, who is expected to make an immediate impact. The 6'3" forward will bring a huge defensive presence and can score at a high level. VanDerveer said this is a deep team with a great combination of youth and veterans ready to improve.  

"We have a long, long way to go, but they're embracing the grind," she said. "They understand we were off basically all summer. We came back late in the fall. We're playing catch up. I think they're a confident group, but we know we have a lot of hard work to do. I think they're buying into the work ethic, which is great."

 

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