With Spencer Jones leading the way, Stanford looks to build

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Now that Spencer Jones and his Stanford supporting cast have emerged as capable scorers at every spot of the court, the Cardinal are counting on being a more versatile offensive team that can regularly push the pace in transition.

This unselfish bunch relies on moving the ball and making one more pass to open things up and put pressure on the defense in coach Jerod Haase’s seventh year.

“I do think we will have more variety to our offense and as a group we need to limit our turnovers and make easy plays over and over,” Haase said. “And if we do that I do think we could be an efficient offensive team.”

Jones leads the way. He started all 31 games as a junior and earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention. He is Stanford’s returning leading scorer after averaging 12 points along with 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. The 6-foot-7 forward ranks ninth in program history for 3-pointers made with 189.

Jones realizes he will be called upon to take on a greater load for a team that went 16-16 last season and 8-12 in Pac-12 play while losing six of its final seven games.

He doesn’t mind taking on a mentoring role with the young players. After all, he was one of them not so long ago — though it’s a little strange to Jones that he is a senior already, though he does have another year of eligibility after this season if he decides to use it.

“Too fast for me to take a step back and just be like, ‘Dang, I’m on my fourth year,” Jones said during a recent walk around campus. ”Obviously I have another one if I want it because of COVID but I’m one of the older guys on the team even though some of the juniors are older than me but one of the more experienced guys. When I do take that step back I definitely realize how much I’ve learned since I’ve been here, everything you’ve been through to help the younger guys.”

The Cardinal will host Pacific on Nov. 7 to open the season.

PLAYMAKERS

Graduate student guard Michael Jones, junior forward Brandon Angel and sophomore forward Harrison Ingram are players Haase will count on to take the scoring pressure off Spencer Jones.

“Spencer certainly will have the green light and we want him to be the focus of our offense,” Haase said.

Ingram averaged 10.5 points and a team-leading 6.7 rebounds.

EXPERIENCE GAINED

Second-year big man Maxime Raynaud from France returns for his sophomore year having gained valuable experience in his first collegiate season. The 7-foot-1 forward averaged 4.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game as a freshman and was the Pac-12’s third-best rebounder among freshmen and ranked sixth for freshmen in scoring.

Raynaud scored in double figures five times and will look to do more. His 54.1% shooting from the floor was seventh-best by a Stanford freshman.

Guard Isa Silva is another sophomore expected to take on a greater role after a strong offseason.

“I’m really excited about their growth in particular,” Haase said.

AGARWAL REPRESENTS

Freshman guard Ryan Agarwal is believed to be one of only a few Division I players of Indian descent, and he is thrilled to represent. He is likely to earn minutes and contribute as a freshman, too.

From Coppell, Texas, Agarwal appreciates the opportunity to set an example for supporters all over the world who cheer him from afar.

“It means everything to me, it’s kind of what drives me,” Agarwal said. “It’s very fun and for me it’s very calming to have a lot of people reaching out to me on (direct messages) over social media happy that I’m representing them or rooting for me that I may not even know them. So it really means everything to me to be one of the guys that was gifted and talented enough to play at this level of Indian descent.”

He arrived on campus in mid-June to get acclimated and train with teammates like Jones, who he called “a great role model.” Agarwal and the other newcomers are spending a lot of time on the basics such as ball fakes, accurate passing and rebounding technique and positioning.

“All those different things that you can learn when you’re first starting to play basketball but it’s so important at this level,” he said. “So it’s always the basics first.”

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