STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Spencer Jones returned for a fifth year at Stanford because he believes the Cardinal can be an NCAA Tournament team come spring.
The team is more experienced going into the 2023-24 season with several key newcomers such as highly touted freshman guard Andrej Stojakovic, the son of former Sacramento Kings star Peja Stojakovic.
"That’s the reason I came back. I wouldn’t have came back if I didn’t have full confidence that we have the talent and we have everything we need to get that done,” Jones said. "For me coming back, it was almost purely a basketball decision. I’ve done my schoolwork and all that. I’ve still got a little bit of work to do, but it was all basketball."
Stanford has more go-to shooting options entering coach Jerod Haase's eighth season.
Stanford went 14-19 overall last season and 7-13 in Pac-12 play.
On his desk, Haase is keeping a special photo from his team's preseason trip to France and Greece — one from the family home of 7-foot-1 junior forward Maxime Raynaud in Paris, where his mother served lunch to them all.
“I just put one of my favorite pictures on my desk at work of the entire team at Maxime’s house,” Haase said. “It really added a different dynamic, a real personal element to the trip. And we’re thrilled to be able to do that.”
The Cardinal played three games while away and were able to have extra practices ahead of time — focused on the games and experience while traveling.
JONES' FIFTH YEAR
With Jones opting to return for a fifth season, much of what Stanford does will revolve around him both as an on-court leader who has taken his defense to another level but also a steady presence with the young players.
“We want him to be a real focal point of what we do,” Haase said. “We know he can shoot the basketball, but he’s becoming more and more proficient in the post. ... We want him to be as well-rounded as possible, knowing that the 3-point shooting is a huge piece."
Jones is happy to do whatever is needed.
“I love the role I have on the team and I knew this was the best chance for me to win and be a better player,” he said.
Senior Brandon Angel is thrilled with Stanford's veterans — something the program hasn't had previously after losing players to the NBA or for other reasons, such as career-ending injuries.
Guard Jared Bynum is just the second graduate student transfer in program history after playing at Providence the past three seasons.
"Being old is a positive and something we haven’t had my first couple of years I was here, and especially the type of offense we run, knowing where people are, building the rapport with other people on the court is huge,” Angel said. “As you become more cohesive, we operate more efficiently on both ends of the floor. So hopefully we can use that to our advantage and make a run in the conference, finish out the last year of the Pac strong and move into the tournament, make a run there as well.”
Raynaud earned 23 starts among his 33 games as a sophomore, averaging 8.8 points while leading Stanford with 6.1 rebounds per game and shooting 54% from the field. After winning a gold medal with the France Under-20 team, the Cardinal are counting on him in the low post as well as being a passing and 3-point threat.
“He’s really developed his confidence more than anything, has taken a big step forward,” Haase said.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Among the nation's top recruits, the 6-foot-7 Stojakovic is a McDonald's All-American whom Haase is counting on to immediately impact the program with his shooting and ballhandling abilities.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll