STANFORD — Jerod Haase spent last season establishing his culture at Stanford.
That included introducing the words the program would live by: invested, tough, and selfless.
Now, at last, he has an experienced roster back and some continuity to the program as he begins coaching his second year on The Farm.
“When I look back at year one, certainly the wins and losses are not what I want it to be,” Haase said. “... Not that it’s perfect or we’re exactly where we want to be, but I think we’ve done a good job laying that foundation. Hopefully as year two unfolds, we can talk about success in a lot of different ways, and one being, hopefully, wins and losses.”
The Cardinal are picked to place fifth in the Pac-12, returning four starters and five of the team’s top six scorers.
Reid Travis led the way with 17.4 points per game and Dorian Pickens 12.6.
A redshirt junior, Travis is the Pac-12’s top returning scorer and rebounder. In May, the NCAA granted his petition for an extra year of eligibility after he missed the final 22 games of the 2015-16 season because of a leg injury.
Finding a way to win the close games — avoiding key mistakes and executing down the stretch or getting one more stop — is a focus.
Stanford will host defending champion North Carolina on Nov. 20 and play Kansas at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Dec. 21 ahead of Pac-12 play.
“Everyone’s pretty comfortable. I’d say it’s the biggest thing when you get a new coach, is quick building that trust level and building that relationship with him,” Travis said. “We know his systems, his expectations and things he’s looking for. … Now that that groundwork’s done, it should be a good second year.”
Here are some things to watch for with Stanford this season:
REID TRAVIS’ STRIDES
Travis has made strides in his shooting, taking the ball at defenses with authority and even boosted his strength.
A 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward, Travis also raised his free-throw percentage from 48 percent to 65.2 percent last season.
“He still weighs the same amount, but he’s becoming more and more efficient,” Haase said. “He’s running like a perimeter player, but still has the beef and strength to hit people inside.”
Travis, Pickens and Michael Humphrey will be part of the first “Peter Sauer Captainship” honoring the late Peter Sauer, a former Stanford player who died in July 2012 at age 35 when he collapsed while shooting free throws after an adult recreational league game and hit his head.
A 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward from Pittsburgh, Sauer was part of Stanford teams that reached four consecutive NCAA tournaments under coach Mike Montgomery. He was captain of the Cardinal’s surprising 1998 Final Four team.
Haase chose the three to wear patches in Sauer’s honor.
“We are asking them to shoulder the responsibility of playing well themselves, to make sure that the older guys do their job, but then really embrace the younger guys and make sure that it’s all inclusive and not a division between the new guys and the veterans, that it’s one group,” Haase said. “I think we’ve made good progress so far.”
Pickens plans to wear a different pair of sneakers for every game — and perhaps practice, too, if he can pull it off. He has about 165-170 pairs of basketball shoes.
He is superstitious about it, so if he has a bad game that pair might be benched for a while.
“I have a ton of sneakers, I’m a big sneaker guy,” Pickens said. “Hopefully you’ll see me in a great deal of different shoes this year. I try to wear a different pair every game.”
Finding the right fit for Stanford with the university’s prestigious academic programs and tough acceptance standards takes some work.
Haase is figuring things out on the recruiting trail — and it doesn’t hurt this is the very place he has wanted to be for decades, dating back to thinking he might come here before ending up at Kansas.
“I think a year later I’m much more comfortable with what the Stanford culture is, what the recruiting process is,” he said. “It’s been a learning experience for me. And while there are challenges to recruit student-athletes to Stanford, there are so many, so many positives.”
While Stanford boasts one of college basketball’s most experienced rosters, Haase is eager to see how unheralded freshman guard Isaac White from Australia will contribute with his ability to be a perimeter shooting threat.