Women’s basketball pins hoops on Kiki Iriafen as Hannah Jump and Cameron Brink graduate

Just three years ago, a freshman Cameron Brink and a sophomore Hannah Jump were piling on top of their teammates to celebrate their victory in the 2021 NCAA tournament championship game. On Friday, both teammates played their last game in Stanford jerseys, as the Cardinal fell to NC State 77-67 in the Sweet 16. This marks the end of an era for Stanford — nobody from the 2021 national title team will remain on the roster next season.

“We’ll never have this group of people again,” said junior forward Kiki Iriafen after the game. “I think that’s just something I’m realizing.”

“I’m gonna miss [Hannah and Cam] so much,” said freshman forward Nunu Agara. “They embraced me. They showed compassion and leadership, and I wouldn’t consider them teammates — they’re my sisters.”

While Jump and Brink are moving on to their professional careers, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer will turn to Iriafen to fill the leadership void that both players will leave in the wake of their departure. 

“She’s the leader,” VanDerveer said.

VanDerveer added that she hopes Kiki’s improvement can help motivate others on the team to improve their craft over the offseason.

“I pointed out to our team, as an example, Oregon State,” VanDerveer said. “They won 13 games last year and four Pac-12 games. Their kids stuck together, got in the gym and they got better.”

To VanDerveer and other members of the team, the team’s offensive weakness on the perimeter will need to be addressed in order for next season to be successful. Several times throughout the season, defenders laid off Stanford’s perimeter players in order to provide more help defense on Iriafen and Brink. To keep up with the high-powered offenses throughout the rest of college basketball, the Cardinal will need to improve their shooting and spacing on offense.

“I have a lot to work on,” Agara said. “Slimming down a bit, working on my shot and working on my leadership skills.”

While Stanford isn’t able to use the transfer portal as extensively as its competitors, VanDerveer hopes that the Cardinal can utilize the portal to get more graduate transfers into the program. However, it remains to be seen if Stanford will target anybody in the portal this off-season. 

But the Cardinal will also have three freshmen entering the program next season: 6-foot-4 forward Kennedy Umeh, 6-foot–3 forward Harper Peterson and 5-foot-6 guard Shay Ijiwoye. All three players will have a chance to enter the rotation early in their college careers, as all possess skills that address gaps the team will face next year. 

While replacing the production of Brink and Jump will be a difficult challenge, a more skilled team next season could pose more challenges for opponents than even this year’s team. 

“Every season is always challenging,” VanDerveer said. “We’ve lost great players because we’ve had great players to lose. You lose Jayne Appel or Nneka Ogwumike or Chiney Ogwumike or Candice Wiggins.”

But one player gives VanDerveer hope that this offseason and next year can be a success.

“Kiki is the bright light, the leader and the inspiration for all our young players,” VanDerveer said. “She just got in the gym and worked, and that’s what we need our other players to do.”