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Shaw: Stanford's renaissance has only just begun

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Shaw: Stanford's renaissance has only just begun

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) As David Shaw addressed his Stanford players for the final time this season, a sense of sadness started to circulate around the room.

No more games. No more trophy celebrations. No more upsets, comebacks or any of the other thrilling moments that took place during the most sensational season in 40 years on The Farm.

``It was almost like, `Gosh, we want to play another game,''' Shaw said. ``These guys were such a joy to be with. We almost didn't want the season to end. Even though it ended in the Rose Bowl and everyone was really excited, it was almost like, `Man, we need to play again.'''

After a Pac-12 Conference title and the program's first Rose Bowl victory since the Nixon Administration, Stanford's players simply can't wait to take the field again - and their sights may be set even higher next season.

The Cardinal are in far better shape than last January, when Andrew Luck left to become the NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick and several other starters departed along with the record-setting quarterback. But instead of taking a step back, Stanford sprung forward, finally toppling Oregon and coming within a victory - or a disputed replay - at Notre Dame from perhaps supplanting the Fighting Irish in Monday night's BCS championship game against Alabama.

Kevin Hogan is solidified at quarterback, and most of the Pac-12's top defense will return. Shaw, winner of two straight conference coach of the year awards, also turned down the NFL to sign a ``long-term'' deal at Stanford in December - though that didn't stop a few NFL teams from inquiring about his services anyway.

``There have been conversations,'' Shaw said, speaking by phone before heading back on the recruiting trail this week. ``But I think they all understand now that that's the reason we signed the contract when we did, to keep me out of that speculation to let people know I'm going to be at Stanford.''

The Cardinal have so much depth that Shaw expects to add only ``10 to 12'' recruits on signing day Feb. 6. Even a preseason ranking in the top five of The Associated Press poll is possible.

``We're not going to lose a lot of guys,'' Shaw said. ``We're bringing back a whole lot of guys.''

Middle linebacker Chase Thomas will leave the biggest hole on defense, though the Cardinal had such a legion of linebackers, playing time proved to be the only real problem at the position this season. Leading tackler Shayne Skov wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he will be back as a fifth-year senior, as expected, after defensive lineman Ben Gardner tweeted he'd return.

Running back Stepfan Taylor is set to graduate, and so is wide receiver and punt returner Drew Terrell. Tight ends Zach Ertz - who could be the top player taken at his position - and Levine Toilolo appear likely to forego their final year of eligibility for the NFL draft.

But there are several freshmen from what the program considered the best recruiting class in Stanford history who didn't play, or played sparingly, and could emerge quickly. Among those is running back Barry J. Sanders, who spurned his Hall of Fame father's alma mater at Oklahoma State to make his own mark out West, but injured his ankle in the fall and ended up redshirting.

With a doubt, though, Stanford is more settled on offense heading into next season because quarterback is no longer an issue. The strong-armed and quick-footed Hogan finished 5-0 - including beating four ranked teams en route to the Rose Bowl - since replacing Josh Nunes. He impressed so much that the only question now is how good he can be in his redshirt sophomore season.

``Is he going to be able to make that next step from an athletic kid to a true, legitimate threat as a passer and as a runner? Will he be a complete quarterback this year? We'll see,'' Shaw said. ``We know he has the ability to. Can he make that jump?''

The only other concern Shaw has is guarding against complacency.

Shaw received more than 250-plus text messages, emails and voicemails - and a hug from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - since Tuesday's victory in Pasadena. He called the response overwhelming, though in some ways it also was a bit unsettling.

For so long, Shaw heard so many consider the Rose Bowl ``out of reach'' for the rigorous academics university. Now that the Cardinal have accomplished the one goal Shaw sets every season, he doesn't want everybody celebrating the accomplishment too much.

After all, there are more games to be won, more trophies to hoist and perhaps even one more milestone to reach before Stanford could be considered a powerhouse to those who recognize only one accomplishment: a national title.

``Will coaches have to crack the whip to get guys motivated, or will we continue to be motivated even though we did win the Rose Bowl? Can we continue to push ourselves through success?'' Shaw said. ``We'll find out.''

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Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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Five observations from Wizards' 115-104 loss to the Brooklyn Nets despite Dwight Howard's huge night

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USA Today Sports

Five observations from Wizards' 115-104 loss to the Brooklyn Nets despite Dwight Howard's huge night

The Washington Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets 115-104 on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Step back: The Wizards just can't crack the code of consistency or the pesky Brooklyn Nets.

After winning three straight and looking like they had made some corrections, the Wizards stumbled out of the locker room at halftime and couldn't match Brooklyn's energy. The Nets pulled away to lead by as many as 19 and handed the Wizards yet another blowout loss in a season of which are quickly piling up.

The Nets have the formula to give the Wizards fits. They are scrappy and play defense. They are cohesive and well-coached. The Wizards are susceptible against try-hards who play with a chip on their shoulder. They too often let others set the tone and that's just what the Nets did in this one. 

The Wizards are now 5-10 on the season. That matches their 15-game start from two years ago, when they rallied to win 49 games, but that only means so much, of course.

Threes were off: While their attempts are up, the Wizards have been shooting uncharacteristically bad from three this season. They entered the game 27th in the NBA, shooting just 32.8 percent.

In this game, they didn't just struggle to make threes, they had trouble shooting them at all. Brooklyn sold out to take away the perimeter and was successful doing it. 

The Wizards went 3-for-17 from three and shot just 17.6 percent. They were 2-for-13 entering the fourth quarter.

Surely, head coach Scott Brooks won't be happy about that. Three-point shooting continues to be a major point of emphasis for him.

Howard was dominant early: Perhaps we should have expected this from Dwight Howard. After all, it was the Nets, the team Howard was bought out by over the summer, right before he signed with the Wizards. 

Was three days with a franchise enough for a revenge game? Sure, we'll go with it.

Or, perhaps he's just a bad matchup for Brooklyn because they were the team he smacked around for 32 points and 30 rebounds against last season.

He didn't quite go 30-30, but Howard was unstoppable in the first half. He ate Jarrett Allen, who is a very talented young player, for lunch. Allen and the rest of the Nets' frontline were no match for Howard's strength.

Howard popped off for six of the Wizards' first eight points. By halftime, he had 17 points, nine rebounds, a steal and a block.

This game was a reminder of the fact he can do things his predecessor, Marcin Gortat, cannot. Howard, really, can produce in a way no Wizards' fourth option has been able to in years.

Markieff Morris has often served as the fourth scoring option behind John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. But Morris doesn't often go off for nearly a double-double in a half. 

But, the second half:  What was strange about Howard, though, is that he barely played in the second half until the game was out of hand. Howard picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter, but that didn't explain it all.

Howard played only five minutes from the start of the second half until there were less than nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. During that stretch, Allen found success against the Wizards' small-ball lineups and helped the Nets pull away.

By the time Howard returned, the Wizards were down 19 points. Brooks had something that was working really well and, in part because of the fouls, he went away from it a little too long. It proved costly.

Morris struggled: As good as Howard was, Morris had one of his worst games of the season. The Wizards power forward had one of those nights we see far too often where he wasn't active enough on defense or on the boards. He couldn't get anything going offensively, either.

Morris, who ended the game with four points and two rebounds in 20 minutes, had zero points and zero rebounds in nine minutes in the first quarter. 

While the Nets' big men were overmatched by Howard's strength, Morris couldn't keep up with their quickness. He was a step behind and had trouble matching their bounce around the rim.

Morris predictably didn't play at all in the fourth quarter. That's the way it goes with Brooks now.

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Despite coming off of the bench, Bruno Fernando delivered a perfect performance against Hofstra

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USA TODAY Sports

Despite coming off of the bench, Bruno Fernando delivered a perfect performance against Hofstra

COLLEGE PARK, Md. --- Bruno Fernando came off the bench to deliver 17 points and seven rebounds as part of a balanced offense as Maryland defeated Hofstra 80-69 on Friday.

Fernando made all eight of his field goal attempts for the Terrapins (4-0). It was the 12th time in school history a player was perfect from the floor with at least eight attempts and the first since Sean Mosley was 8 of 8 against Longwood in 2010.

Freshman Eric Ayala scored a career-high 14 points, while Aaron Wiggins added 13. Darryl Morsell had 12 points, and both Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith had 11. It was the first time since Jan. 7, 2017, against Iowa that Maryland had six players score in double figures.

Justin Wright-Foreman, who entered the game tied for 10th in the country with 25.3 points per game, scored 27 points for the Pride (2-2). Hofstra built a 37-31 lead the break, the first time Maryland trailed at halftime this season.

Hofstra extended its edge to 43-35, but Maryland responded with a 16-3 run to claim the lead for good. The Terps never led by less than three points in the final 14 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride is an efficient scoring team and showed in the first half why they are expected to contend in the Colonial Athletic Association this season. Maryland is Hofstra's lone power conference opponent, and the Pride is unlikely to see a frontcourt as athletic as Fernando and Smith the rest of the season.

Maryland: The Terps continue their build up toward a difficult stretch that starts Nov. 23 and includes games against Marshall, Virginia, Penn State, Purdue and Loyola Chicago in a 16-day stretch. Maryland is off to a 4-0 start for the fifth consecutive season.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to face Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday.

Maryland looks to improve to 9-0 all-time against Mount St. Mary's when the Mountaineers visit on Sunday.