Jeremy Green is getting an education in leadership at the same time he's providing one. On a basketball team with eight freshmen and not one senior, Green has assumed responsibilities that rarely reside with a junior, let alone a junior still battling to fulfill his own potential. But then, very little about this season's squad is conventional.
No previous Stanford men's team has been without a senior. The most redoubtable player besides Green is another junior, Josh Owens, but he missed last season with an undisclosed medical issue. And the key freshmen, led by Dwight Powell, immediately had to take on major roles.
To the surprise of most observers, the Cardinal started their Pac-10 schedule impressively, defeating Cal at home, winning at Arizona State before losing at Arizona, and returning to Maples Pavilion to upset 17th-ranked Washington. The decisive basket in that 58-56 stunner was a tip-in by Owens.
At that juncture in mid-January, Stanford was 10-5, perhaps, as Green noted before the Washington game, squelching the chatter among other teams about the Cardinal's baby-faced "choirboy look." Green, a 6-foot-4 guard with a long-range jump shot, and Owens, a powerful 6-8 forward, were first and second in scoring totals, respectively.
By the end of the month, Stanford had slumped to 11-9 and 4-5 in the Pac-10. "At times," Green notes, "it's about composure. We'll be on the road, and it feels like our team is against an entire school. It's 15-strong versus thousands. That's when I want my teammates just to see in my eyes that I'm not scared."
But he also realizes that inspiration can have a lighter side. Hence the new PlayStation 3 that has been connected to the same projection screen used for analyzing game film. He asked the coaches to add the machine as another way "to help bring our team together." Which it does, he says, even though one player always stands out during the little video-game tournaments held before practice. "I'm the best, hands down," says Green.
Green, a Texas native, is trying to be more of a multidimensional player after establishing an identity as a top gun from three-point range. Barring the unforeseen, he seems certain to end up Stanford's all-time leader in three-point field goals. But statistics indicate the Cardinal is more successful when the scoring attack emphasizes balance, rather than a torrent of long-distance shots by Green.
Before the Washington game, he was talking mostly about the overall defense, undoubtedly music to the coaches' ears. Individual identity matters, but group identity matters more. "We're a large family," concludes Green. "I'd say I'm the big brother or uncle."