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Men's Basketball

Trying to 'Turn the Corner'

The growing experience of a young team boosts tourney hopes for men.

Jim Shorin/Stanford Athletics

ONWARD: Dawkins has enlisted some top recruits.

In November, Johnny Dawkins was thinking about mid-March. But then, basketball coaches always are thinking about mid-March, when NCAA tournament play begins.

With his fourth season as coach of the men's team under way, Dawkins says point-blank, "We feel this is the year when we can turn the corner." That means getting Stanford back into the postseason tourney for the first time since 2008. Dawkins has been rebuilding since arriving from Duke, where he had been an assistant coach since 1998. He's yet to reach the NCAAs, but he has landed numerous top recruits while his squads have gone 20-14, 14-18 and 15-16.

Last season's team was the program's first without a senior—perhaps, in the end, a benefit in the development of his young talent. Sophomores Aaron Bright, Anthony Brown, Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell are expected to be among this season's core performers, along with freshman Chasson Randle.

"I think having given our younger players opportunities to compete last year was very important," Dawkins says. "They gained some experience at a high level, and I think that experience will pay dividends as they continue to play this year."

Stanford got off to a 8-1 start distinguished by the loss: a well-contested 69-63 defeat at the hands of No. 5 Syracuse in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament in New York.

"It's been a joy to coach these guys," adds Dawkins, cognizant that the Cardinal is under close scrutiny from fans and media looking for conclusive progress. "We've had very few bad days in the gym from the standpoint of how hard they're working and how much they want to improve. They understand what we want to do."

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