Rosco Allen's Italian experience this summer included a police escort for the sake of a basketball game. Perhaps he'd like to create another opportunity for such an escort with the help of his Stanford men's basketball teammates, for the sake of a championship.
With the loss (to graduation) of Chasson Randle, Anthony Brown and Stefan Nastic, attention turns to Allen, Reid Travis and Marcus Allen (when he's healthy) to form a different brand of basketball for the Cardinal, which won its second Postseason NIT title in three years at Madison Square Gardens in April.
Stanford (24-13 overall, 9-9 Pac-12) opens the season Friday at home against Wisconsin-Green Bay as part of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off at 6 p.m. The Cardinal hosts Charleston Southern on Sunday at 5 p.m., also part of the Tip-Off.
The Cardinal starts the year without four key players in guards Marcus Allen (stress reaction), Malcolm Allen (wrist), and Robert Cartwright (fractured bone in forearm) and post player Grant Verhoeven (foot).
Verhoeven, Rosco Allen and Christian Sanders -- the likely point guard until Marcus Allen returns -- give Stanford its lone senior presence.
"We're preparing well," Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins said. "We're working on continuity with the guys we have. The young guys have an opportunity to step up."
Friday's possible starting five of Sanders, sophomore Dorian Pickens, Rosco Allen, Travis and sophomore Michael Humphrey combined for a total of 216 career games, an average of just over a season's worth of experience. They've all started at least once in their careers, but only Allen could be considered a returning starter. He's made 30 of the combined 58 career starts among the group.
They will be backed up by the three freshmen: 6-5 Marcus Sheffield, 6-7 Cameron Walker and 7-footer Josh Sharma. Until some of the injured players return, that's it for Dawkins, who faces the biggest coaching challenge of career, in his eighth season at Stanford.
All eight available players were top recruits out of high school, they just lack a lot of college experience. Thanks to a friendly schedule, in which 10 of the first 13 games are at home, the group could develop into a competitive team heading into Pac-12 play.
The Cardinal faces an uphill battle from the opening tip. The loss of most of its offense and defensive personality from last year presented a daunting challenge, and the loss of three guards before the first game makes it look desperate. Picked to finish ninth by conference coaches, Stanford looks to defy outside expectations.
"I feel like I've prepped myself really well the last three years," Rosco said. "I've stepped into a bigger and bigger role and I feel like I'm going to do the same thing this coming year. There are a lot of other guys on our team, too, that are ready to step up into bigger roles as well as leadership roles."
The 6-9 Allen, who competed for Hungary at the Under-20 European Championship, averaged 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds a year ago and showed the ability to establish himself as a go-to guy. The same holds true for Travis and Humphrey.
Travis appeared in 28 games, making 12 starts, and averaged 6.2 points and 5.6 rebounds. He debuted with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting against Wofford and finished with a .489 shooting percentage on the season. He recorded a double-double in the opening round of the Postseason NIT against UC Davis and has a career high of 14 boards.
Travis participated in the McDonald's All-America Game, the first future Stanford player to do so since Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez in 2006. Brook will be in town with the Brooklyn Nets for a game against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.
"To see him 100 percent healthy this summer and to see how he played over in Italy, it was very exciting because we knew he was the young man we recruited," Dawkins said of Travis. "I think his production really showed this August versus the European competition."
Humphrey appeared in 30 games last year, with six starts. The 6-foot-9 Phoenix native came on strong at the end of the year, recording a pair of double-doubles in late February against California (14 points, 11 boards) and Oregon State (15 points, 14 rebounds).
Humphrey, a quarterback for Sunnyslope High, graded out as high as No. 10 at his position (forward) by recruiting services. He averaged a double-double in his senior year.
Pickens also brought sparkling credentials to Stanford from Pinnacle High in Phoenix. The Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year averaged 25.2 points as a senior. He'll get a chance to shine this year.
Marcus Allen, expected to return in December, put himself on the map with a solid sophomore season. Making 23 starts, Allen became a reliable player down the stretch and averaged 11.4 points during the run to the NIT crown.
Malcolm Allen missed all of last year with an injury and could return before the end of November. Verhoeven could also return in December while Cartwright is lost for the season.
As for the freshmen?
"I feel like each of them can contribute right away, starting with Josh Sharma, who's a seven-footer, really athletic, runs the floor really well," Rosco Allen said. "Cameron, he's a very versatile player. He played the 1 through 4 for us. He's really skilled. Marcus Sheffield, very skilled player on the wing, can really put the ball in the hoop, and they all showed signs of greatness, and they're definitely going to contribute this coming year."
2015-16 STANFORD MEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Day Opponent Time
Friday vs. Wisconsin-Green Bay 6 p.m.
Sunday vs. Charleston Southern 5 p.m.
Thursday vs. Southern Methodist 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 22 at St. Mary's 8 p.m.
Nov. 26 $vs. Villanova 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 27 $Arkansas or Georgia Tech
Dec. 12 vs. Dartmouth 7 p.m.
Dec. 15 vs. DePaul 7 p.m.
Dec. 19 vs. Texas 8:30 p.m.
Dec. 21 vs. Sacramento St. 8 p.m.
Dec. 27 vs. Carroll 6 p.m.
Jan. 1 *vs. Utah 6 p.m.
Jan. 3 *vs. Colorado 7 p.m.
Jan. 6 *at Oregon St. 8 p.m.
Jan. 10 *at Oregon 7 p.m.
Jan. 14 *vs. Cal 8 p.m.
Jan. 21 *vs. Arizona 8 p.m.
Jan. 23 *vs. Arizona St. 8 p.m.
Jan. 27 *at Colorado 6 p.m.
Jan. 30 *at Utah 2 p.m.
Feb. 6 *at Cal 1 p.m.
Feb. 11 *vs. Oregon St. 8 p.m.
Feb. 13 *vs. Oregon 1 p.m.
Feb. 18 *at Washington St. 7 p.m.
Feb. 20 *at Washingston 5 p.m.
Feb. 25 *vs. USC 8 p.m.
Feb. 27 *vs. UCLA 1:30 p.m.
March 3 *at Arizona St. 8 p.m.
March 5 *at Arizona 1 p.m.
March 9-12 &Pac-12
M 15-Apr. 4 NCAA tournament
$-NIT Preseason Tip-Off at Brooklyn, N.Y.
*-Pac-12 Conference games
&-Pac-12 tournament at Las Vegas