Hoopsters hope to catch pundits off guard.
Kyle Terada/Stanford Athletics
In the men's basketball media guide, the personal section on team captain Landry Fields points out that his hobbies include, yes, "playing basketball."
So what's the deal? Is Fields just all basketball, all the time? That wouldn't be surprising, considering the effort he has put into four years of physical and competitive maturation at Stanford. It takes a certain amount of single-mindedness to become the standard bearer for an entire team's pride and perseverance. Even so, says Fields, "I don't want to be one-dimensional."
With an enthusiastic smile, he cites the decidedly nonathletic expertise he shares with teammates. "I'm a big movie guy," he declares, "and we quote movies like it's our job."
It's a relatively little thing, but his savvy attitude is symbolic. This is his final season at Stanford, and he's intent on making the most of it, with attention to the camaraderie as well as the on-court challenges.
As the season started, it looked as if the 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward would have to carry the Cardinal on his shoulders game in, game out. Junior Josh Owens, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound powerhouse who started 28 games in 2008-09, was out indefinitely because of an undisclosed medical issue. Andy Brown, a promising 6-foot-8 freshman, was lost for the season to injury. And, for a time, uncertainty surrounded sophomore guard Jeremy Green, suspended following his arrest on suspicion of felony domestic violence. He was reinstated after two weeks, and the case later closed without charges because of insufficient evidence.
Fields appears as ready as he can be for the responsibilities coming his way. Last season's team had a cluster of deeply experienced seniors; only Fields has that imprint this season. Better, his game has advanced to the level his role demands.
"It does bring pressure," says Fields, "but I don't take it in like that. I take it in as opportunity."
In Stanford's season opener against the University of San Diego, Fields had career highs of 25 points and five steals, but Stanford lost 77-64. Two nights later, he scored 22 points in a 70-53 win over Cal Poly. Three nights after that, he bucketed 28 points against Oral Roberts, although Stanford was beaten 83-81. The fourth game, a 99-69 victory over Florida A&M, featured 21 points from Green, while Fields turned in 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Then came an impressive surge. After a 57-52 win over Virginia, the Cardinal took the nation's No. 5 team, Kentucky, into overtime before succumbing 73-65. Fields had 25 points and 13 rebounds in the victory and came back with 23 points and another 13 boards in the near upset. Had the media really picked Stanford to finish last in the Pac-10?
"Nobody likes to be called a loser," notes Fields. He's using the prediction to pump up his motivation and hopes his teammates are similarly inspired. "A lot of the time they do feed off my energy," he says. "I feel like when I say something, I really do have the respect of everybody."
In game situations, says associate head coach Dick Davey, teammates rely on Fields to the extent that—how's this for irony?—it can make the offense too one-dimensional at times. "The rest of the team has so much respect for him, they're constantly looking for him" to finish off a play.
It's a status Fields has grown into, in part literally. He's three inches taller than when he entered Stanford, and he applied himself in the weight room to add muscle. His confidence is understandably stronger, and he channels it into an underdog moxie for the whole team.
"When we get going, we can definitely make some heads turn. We can surprise some people."
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Data is from the past two weeks.