South Medford's Tess Picknell was a second-team all-state selection last season as a junior. - MT file photo

Stanford comes calling for Picknell

The phone lines were burning up Thursday for South Medford High's Tess Picknell, but all in a good way.

Then again, when you're a high school basketball recruit and Stanford's Tara VanDerveer is on the other end of the line, how bad can any conversation be?

In one 10-minute phone call from VanDerveer, Picknell received a double-dose of good news. First, her application for admittance at Stanford University had been approved. Second, VanDerveer wanted the 6-foot-5, 220-pound center to come play for the Cardinal.

"I knew I was going to get the call, it was either going to be a yes or a no," Picknell said of her application. "I was kinda worried it was going to be a no, so when it was a yes I was like, 'Oh my god, this can't be happening. This is amazing.'"

After giving the 17-year-old the good news, VanDerveer suggested she talk matters over with her parents and then call back with her response. Thirty minutes went by before Picknell returned the call, but there certainly wasn't a spirited debate on the matter.

"Tara VanDerveer sounded pretty happy," Picknell said of her verbal commitment to the Cardinal. "It's pretty exciting and pretty nice to have it over."

"I think this is probably the best situation I can find myself in," added the senior-to-be, who won't be able to sign an official letter of intent until the signing period in November.

Stanford boasts one of the premiere women's basketball programs in the country, having reached the Final Four for the fourth straight season this past winter. The Cardinal posted a 33-3 record in the 2010-11 season, going 18-0 in Pac-10 Conference play.

Picknell said she will be part of a three-person recruiting class of 2012, and there's no question Stanford values her undeniable presence under the basket. She already holds all the Panther records in blocked shots, is a strong rebounder and has a huge upside in the low post.

"They talked about how they really love my defense and how well I ran the floor," she added of what Cardinal staffers had told her over the past four months.

Picknell was a second-team all-state selection after averaging 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocks for South Medford, which finished 21-7 overall and 12-0 in league play. She was named Southern Oregon Hybrid player of the year after leading the Panthers to their first conference title since 1994.

In the ESPN 2012 HoopGurlz rankings, Picknell was considered a four-star recruit and the No. 11 post prospect overall.

In a funny twist, Picknell actually recruited herself to the Stanford coaches in a friend-of-a-friend scenario that started with her uncle, who was friendly with the father of a Cardinal assistant coach. After that initial dialogue, Stanford associate head coach Amy Tucker watched Picknell play a preseason game against eventual state champion Jesuit in December and liked what she saw.

Picknell was in their sights as a member of the Columbia Cascades program when they placed third in the Arizona Elite Tournament in April, and she attended a Stanford basketball camp in June. That's when Picknell got to meet with all the Stanford coaches, work a little closer with Tucker and then hang around and play against some of the Cardinal players once the camp was over.

"That was pretty cool," Picknell said of playing with some of the nation's best.

As Picknell has continued to play for Columbia Cascades summer team, Stanford has kept tabs on her performances.

Picknell was one of two Cascades players to make a lengthy all-tournament team during the End of Trail tournament in Oregon City after helping her team reach the semifinals of the Gold bracket. She also recently competed in the Nike Summer Showcase in Chicago, and is currently in Franklin, Tenn., for another tournament set to begin today. She'll play in one more tournament, the Mid Summer Nights Madness Western Nationals in San Diego, before finally returning home to Medford for good on July 31.

Picknell joined the Cascades program last summer and returned for another run to help get a different experience. With Panthers head coach Tom Cole, players are given considerable freedom on the court, whereas Picknell said Columbia coach Al Aldridge calls out every play.

"I wanted to get better but it's also a different coaching style and a different program and I thought that it would be best if I got a new experience in basketball, something different that requires new skills," she said. "Tom is more comfortable for me and if I had to choose I would go with South every single time, but I felt it would be in my best interest to get a different perspective in basketball."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488,, or

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