Tara VanDerveer: Success a result of hard work
Leave it to Tara VanDerveer to break down the idea of basketball intelligence the same way she scouts an opponent or watches film of her own team -- with meticulous attention to the details.
Yes, her players get A's in class. No, they aren't always "basketball smart."
Yes, her players scored high on the SAT. No, they don't always know what play is being run.
Yes, her players generally have taken their share of Advanced Placement courses. But no, they don't show up on campus fully formed, prepared to respond the right way in every situation on the court.
So they study, VanDerveer said over the weekend, and they prepare. And then they study and prepare some more.
And that was VanDerveer's point this weekend when she said that not all of her players have "basketball intelligence." In fact, VanDerveer said, "I think we might be less basketball-intelligent than some other teams."
It wasn't intended as an insult; she wasn't running down the kids on her roster. If anything, VanDerveer was taking umbrage at the notion that the efficiency and discipline she's spent years instilling in her players, qualities that have become the hallmarks of her program, are the results of something other than a lot of hard work.
And that's a detail that VanDerveer thinks everybody ought to get right.
The subject came up Saturday night in the afterglow of the Cardinal's 86-59 win over UC Davis in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Why, the Stanford players were asked, does it seem that the Cardinal team is so efficient at executing the halftime adjustments handed out by VanDerveer and her staff?
Guard Lindy La Rocque opined that perhaps Stanford's players' "concentration level is higher than the average team."
It was an innocent enough remark on La Rocque's part, yet it was the perpetuation of a long-held stereotype about Stanford athletes. Brainiacs in the classroom must mean brainiacs on the field and the court, right?
VanDerveer felt compelled to jump in and disagree. And then the subject came up again on Sunday.
"We know everyone at Stanford has academic intelligence," VanDerveer said. "Basketball intelligence to me is where you play a lot of basketball and are able to recognize a lot of basketball. You might not be able to get A's in AP physics or real high SAT scores, but basketball intelligence is the ability to make decisions on the basketball court ... I think you learn basketball by watching it, by playing it, not just showing up to practice, and playing it from a young age. I won't use the word intelligence, but intuitiveness."
VanDerveer, in fact, wants credit where it's due, in the work that these players put in, the time they spend pouring over videos and studying scouting reports in addition to the homework they have in their other classes.
"Basketball intelligence" is not a gift -- as "intelligence" is often construed to be -- it's hard-earned.
And that's a detail VanDerveer thought was worth pointing out. Should we expect anything less?