after the cardinal ended last season with only eight healthy scholarship players, everyone around Palo Alto is knocking on wood in hopes that all 13 current players will still be standing next March. But no one seems particularly concerned about the possibility of senior shooting guard Dan Grunfeld, the team's leading scorer before he tore his right ACL last February, going down with another injury. "Oh, I don't worry about Danny," says second-year coach Trent Johnson. "In fact, it's easy to forget he was even injured."
That was precisely Grunfeld's goal when he moved into his grandmother's house in nearby Burlingame for several weeks last winter, catching up on entire seasons of 24 and spending six hours a day with his knee in a range-of-motion machine. "When my knee got hurt, so did my social life," says Grunfeld, the son of former NBA guard and current Washington Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie. "I didn't want to do anything that didn't involve getting my knee better."
Nine months later the only signs that he had surgery are the scar and the enormous knee brace he wears on the court. Grunfeld even won the team's mile run in 5:10, just five seconds off his winning time last year. "If he feels a step slow, you wouldn't know it," says assistant coach Eric Reveno. "He wasn't a guy who relied on explosiveness anyway."
Grunfeld does rely on exploiting angles and playing what Reveno calls an "off-speed" game. "When everyone else is going a mile a minute, he's just taking his time," says Reveno. "His pump fake seems kind of slow, but it's very precise and efficient. He hasn't lost any of that."
Actually, sitting out the final nine games of last season may have sharpened Grunfeld's basketball acumen. "When you step back a little bit, you can observe what certain people do to be successful," he says. "I feel like my pace is better, and I'm more patient coming off screens and setting up my man."
Helping to set up Grunfeld will be seniors Chris Hernandez, the Pac-10's top returning point guard, and Matt Haryasz, an elastic post player and one of the league's best rebounders. "Stanford is known for having two big bruisers in the post, and we don't necessarily have that this year," says Haryasz. "I think this team is going to break the mold. We're really versatile." --Kelli Anderson
The emerging hoops hotbed has been good to the Cardinal, providing point guard Chris Hernandez and, next year, the Lopez twins, 7-footers Brook and Robin.
Coach: Trent Johnson 2004--05 record: 18--13 (11--7, T3 in Pac-10)
2005 tournament: Lost in 1st round to Mississippi State
ENEMY LINES an opposing coach's view
Matt Haryasz is as good an inside guy as they've had. He can score, he's a good athlete and he can run forever. The question is, What other big guys do they have?... Chris Hernandez is just awesome. The game is never over when he's playing.... You have to make sure Dan Grunfeld gets the ball going away from the basket. If he has a chance to read the defender coming off a cut, that defender is very vulnerable.