NCAA BASKETBALL: Young Stanford team gears up for rebuilding year
AP Sports Writer
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) – Johnny Dawkins begins his third season as Stanford coach with his own recruiting class at last. Still, it’s an inexperienced roster minus any seniors.
In some ways, Dawkins is starting over in the rebuilding process of a program striving to get back to its former dominant years. It could be a while.
“We’re not a program yet,” he said. “That’s when our culture changes. We’re in the process of becoming (that) and developing kids to that level, recruiting kids. It’s a process.”
Dawkins knows it will take contributions from everybody to try to make up for the loss of Landry Fields, who led the Cardinal with 22 points and 8.8 rebounds per game last season. Junior returner Jeremy Green was the only other Stanford player to score in double figures with a 16.6 average. Playing better defense is another focus.
Stanford is thrilled to welcome back 6-foot-8 junior forward Josh Owens after he missed last season with an undisclosed medical condition that he has opted not to discuss. The previous campaign, Owens started 28 of 34 games, averaging 6.9 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 56.1 percent from the floor – fifth in the conference. He also blocked a team-best 28 shots.
Owens insists he shouldn’t be too rusty despite being off for so long.
“It feels amazing, just anxious to get back on the court,” Owens said. “I feel better, I feel stronger. I put on a few pounds this summer. I followed all the necessary steps (to get back). I try to keep it like it was in the past. It was tough. I had a lot of high expectations for myself. To have that cut short was disappointing.”
Stanford, with seven scholarship players and six walk-ons, went 14-18 last season and missed the postseason for the first time since 1993. At 7-11 in league play, the Cardinal won one more Pac-10 game than the previous season in Dawkins’ rookie campaign.
They are picked to finish second-to-last in the conference this season, ahead of Oregon.
Dawkins, the longtime top assistant under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and a former All-American at the school, loves the teaching and development part of his job. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had to adapt to a new system and style since his Duke days.
“I’ve definitely grown as a coach. When you’re thrust into that seat you have things to learn,” Dawkins said. “The first person I look at when we lose, I look at me. I have improved in teaching. I had to make some adjustments from what I’ve known and been part of. I had to kind of tweak my system on both ends of the floor. I don’t like to compromise things defensively.”
Dawkins had been on the Duke coaching staff since the 1997-98 season until Stanford hired him in April 2008 to replace Trent Johnson. Dawkins has played for a national championship and won it all as a coach.
At this stage, Dawkins is most concerned with consistency at Stanford, making sure his team plays with effort and energy every night against more experienced and more talented teams.
He has coached himself to be patient with the process.
“It’s kind of unusual, right, to have a team with no seniors?” Dawkins said. “By the same token, we are excited because the one thing that is known is we will have this group for the next several years. That’s a good thing, to be able to build and grow together while developing continuity with these groups.”
The Cardinal will be without redshirt freshman Andy Brown, who will miss the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in August – for a third time. Brown was sidelined last season on a medical redshirt with the same injury sustained on the first day of practice.
Owens knows he needs to help carry the load in his return season.
“We have a whole bunch of freshmen and whole bunch of juniors. I’m the last person from the Trent Johnson era and the last team that went to the NCAA tournament,” Owens said. “It’ll be a fun, interesting journey this year.”