STANFORD — Details are still in the works for a 20th-year reunion of the Stanford men’s basketball team that reached the Final Four in 1998.
“I’ve talked to all the players and coaches and it’s really interesting, one thing that kept coming up was Peter Sauer,” said Stanford men’s basketball coach Jerod Haase, in his second season on The Farm.
Sauer, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward, served as a captain on the 1998 team.
He died five years ago while playing a pickup basketball game in White Plains, New York.
He was 35.
“All the guys talked about how great the team was, how tough the team was, but they all came back to Peter Sauer and what he meant to that team from a leadership perspective,” Haase said. “So after thinking a little bit and trying to tie the past into this team, we’ve actually named those three as captains, but not just as captains — we’ve named them the Peter Sauer captains.”
Those “three” that Haase is referring to are his anointed captains: Dorian Pickens, a 6-5, 215-pound senior guard; Michael Humphrey, a 6-9, 245-pound senior forward; and Reid Travis, a 6-8, 245-pound junior forward.
Each will wear a patch with Sauer’s initials in the middle of the “C” for captain.
“His wife Amanda and his daughters are fired up,” Haase said.
He added: “What’s best for our team and our program right now is to honor Peter, but also honor that team. And, again, try and learn from the past so that this team can take some of those lessons and represent them the right way.”
Practice officially gets under way on Friday, and there’s a lot of work to do before the season tips off in six weeks.
“On the court, I think this will be the greatest change that I’ll ever have at Stanford stylistically,” Haase said. “In other words, pace of play, the multiple defenses, how we do things X-and-O-wise on the court. We’ll be vastly different this year compared to last year, and hopefully moving forward we just tweak it year to year.”
The Cardinal is coming off a 14-17 season in which it finished tied for ninth in the Pac-12 with a 6-12 ledger.
Haase described the schemes on both ends of floor as “vanilla” during his first go around.
“I would like to have a general identity of the kinds of things we’re doing on both ends of the floor,” Haase said. “I think we’ve made a lot of strides from Year 1 to Year 2. I think culturally, when we talk about invested, tough and selfless, through recruiting, through the things we’ve done within the program, I think we’ve made great steps, although we need to continue developing.”
Expect plenty of competition at practice, with the infusion of four incoming freshmen, including Kezie Okpala, a 6-8, 195-pound small forward, and Isaac White, a 6-1, 185-pound guard regarded as one of Australia’s top prospects.
That doesn’t even take into account Kodye Pugh, a 6-8, 205-pound redshirt freshman who sat out last season in order develop physically.
“I expect the freshmen as a whole to have a significant impact on the team this year,” Haase said.
One of the strengths of the roster appears to be its length, athleticism and versatility.
This fact is not lost on the coaches.
“Our staff, I’ve joked with them, we’ve talked more basketball this year than I’ve ever had at any point of my coaching career,” Haase said. “And it’s really fun, because we’ve looked really at the pieces we have, trying to put them in a position to be the most successful.”
The schedule includes a Thanksgiving trip to Portland, Oregon, for the PK-80 Invitational, a 16-team tournament to honor Nike co-founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday.
Stanford will play Florida in the opening round, then the winner between Gonzaga and Ohio State, followed by another TBD opponent.
“Between now and then we’re going to be as cliché as we possibly could be and worry about today’s practice and worry about the process,” Haase said. “But as we get to that week, my plan is it to look at it as an unbelievable opportunity to see where we are as a program.”
During the holidays, Haase, who played one year at Cal before transferring to Kansas, will face his ghosts from Christmas past.
The Cardinal faces the Jayhawks on Dec. 21 at Golden1Center in Sacramento, then opens Pac-12 action at Maples Pavilion against the rival Bears on Dec. 30.
“With three young kids at Christmas, there will be a lot of emotions with that and fun times there and New Year’s, so it will be an awesome time — and, hopefully, we can get some wins, as well,” Haase said.
There’s plenty of ties to the past this season, as Stanford attempts to end a 20-year drought since its only appearance in the Final Four.
“As a program, we have a clear vision that we want to be the best,” Haase said. “Be the best in the conference and play for a national championship some day. Those are big, grand dreams and visions, but that is part of the plan.”
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