Is Huestis primed for a standout season?
With a massive new television deal highlighting the return of all 12 of its coaches, Pac-12 basketball is on a decided upswing. And with the majority of its already-promising perimeter talent coming back, Stanford's team looks to mirror the projected improvement of the conference.
On Tuesday, coach Johnny Dawkins and guard Aaron Bright combined
with their counterparts from all 11 other league schools at the
Pac-12 Networks' shiny new studios in downtown San Francisco to
provide the first taste of the 2012 basketball campaign. The media
projected the Cardinal to finish fourth in the conference behind
Arizona, UCLA, and California - but ahead of last year's regular
season champion Washington.
Stanford expects continued success after its 26-11 (10-8 Pac-12)
2012 season ended on a high note. The Cardinal cut down the nets at
New York City's Madison Square Garden following an NIT Championship.
"Offensively and defensively, we know our roles," Bright said. "I
think it will definitely carry over to this next season."
Despite losing leading post presence Josh Owens (11.6 points, 5.8
rebounds) to graduation, the Cardinal are confident in a bevy of
returning young talent that should spearhead the team - particularly
on the perimeter.
Dawkins immediately acknowledged his club's depth, which is
highlighted by returning leading scorers Chasson Randle (13.8
points) and Bright (11.7 points). While those two will man the guard
positions, fellow returners Anthony Brown (8.1 points), Dwight Powell (5.8 points), and Josh Huestis (5.3 points) are all versatile
forces who will be counted on to reach their potential this season.
"We have seven or eight kids that all need to view themselves as
starters," Dawkins said.
The case of the six-foot-six Brown is perhaps the most intriguing.
The junior has shown flashes of tantalizing inside-out capability,
but has yet to register a spectacular season. Dawkins revealed that
Brown played a chunk of last season with a broken foot and torn
labrum, perhaps explaining his inconsistency. He's 100 percent
healthy now, a fact that should make Cardinal fans salivate.
Dwight Powell, who also played banged up last season, will be
counted on to demonstrate physical readiness on top of his
already-solidified status as an athletic presence inside. The
6-foot-10 junior averaged only 17.5 minutes per game as a sophomore,
but his playing time should drastically increase as Stanford looks
for steady post muscle inside following Owens' graduation. Last
year, the Cardinal struggled on the glass against the more
physically imposing teams in the Pac-12 - particularly on the road.
Washington, for one, mauled Stanford 47-32 on the glass on the way
to overwhelming victory. Increased strength and inside nastiness
from players like Powell will be key to reversing this recurring
"I think this year, [Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown] are both very
confident," Brown said.
Six-foot-nine Grant Verhoeven, who Dawkins says may still be
growing, may help provide that needed interior backbone for the
Cardinal along with fellow 6-foot-9 newcomer Rosco Allen. But even
despite Verhoeven's NBA pedigree and renowned big man motor in high
school, both he and Allen are only true freshmen that may need
more strength training and seasoning before they're ready to make
major impacts on the Division 1 level.
But Stanford may be a good spot for young post players to develop a
nasty college-level physicality quickly. That's because the Cardinal
have hired former interior great and two-time NBA champion Mark Madsen as an assistant coach. Dawkins says that his big assistant,
who's only three years removed from his professional career, has
already been throwing his muscle around at practice.
"He really gets after it," Dawkins laughed.
This rough-and-tumble approach is also of potential benefit to the
promising inside-out threat Huestis, whose potential was lauded by
multiple coaches at Pac-12 Media Day. UCLA's Ben Howland said that
he saw the junior as a potential breakout standout player in the
"We think Josh Huestis will end up being one of the best defenders
in our conference and maybe even the country," Dawkins said.
It's the prospect of that kind of positive development that makes
Stanford basketball look like a team on the strong upswing entering
2012. If Dawkins' club can find a way to fortify its interior sooner
rather than later, the Farm Boys have the perimeter talent to bring
their program back to prominence.
As far as former Cardinal coach and current Cal head honcho Mike Montgomery is concerned, the Cardinal are already right back there.
Without even being asked, he brought Dawkins' squad into the
"I think Stanford is going to be really good," he said.
The 2012 season begins with a 1 p.m. Sunday home exhibition against
UNC Penbroke and tips off in earnest on November 9 against the
University of San Francisco at Oakland's Oracle Arena.
David Lombardi covers Stanford
sports for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. HHe can also be heard
on San Francisco's 95.7 The Game. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @davidmlombardi.
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