Tinkle striving for consistency

Don Feria/isiphotos.com

Joslyn Tinkle entered the starting lineup just as the conference season began.

This season, espnW is spending time with the Stanford Cardinal and Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer, getting behind-the-scenes access to the players. Come to espnW every Friday throughout the season to get to know the Cardinal and how they live their lives on and off the court, from the start of practice to the final game of the season in March and, perhaps, into April.

Last week in Tucson, Joslyn Tinkle busted out.

She finished with a career-high 22 points and a season-high 11 rebounds in a 40-point Stanford win over Arizona. It was a promising follow-up to the game she'd had two weeks earlier at Colorado when she scored 20 points against the Buffaloes in Boulder. A sign of consistency.

But coming off the floor Thursday night against USC, that consistency proved elusive for the 6-foot-3 junior forward.

Fourth-ranked Stanford defeated the Women of Troy 69-52, ran its conference win streak to 68 and its home-court win streak to 75, and had an all-around pleasant evening.

Tinkle's stat sheet, though, had seen better nights -- 24 minutes, 0-for-2 from the floor, 4-for-4 from the line, no rebounds.

"I know she wants to be out there," coach Tara VanDerveer said. "We need rebounds. You have to rebound."

Tinkle got to spend the day with her father on Friday. Wayne Tinkle is the head men's basketball coach at Montana and brought his team to Northern California to play Sacramento State. Father and daughter were going to knock around Sacramento for a few hours, and if Joslyn wanted a little advice, there's a good chance her dad, the coach, would tell her something like:

"Keep working and keep a good attitude."

"Always a coach," Wayne Tinkle said. "Even in discussions with my wife and kids, I give them a coach's perspective. At times it's been kind of hard, because it may not be what she's expecting to hear."

Joslyn Tinkle can't be caught off guard that easily, being the daughter of a basketball coach.

She's a basketball legacy, really.

Tinkle was born in Sweden while Wayne played professionally in Europe for 10 years before he began coaching. His playing career took the family to Italy, Greece and Spain. Her mother, Lisa, played at Montana and was recently inducted into the school's Hall of Fame.

Her younger sister, Elleson, will make her college debut at Gonzaga next season. Her youngest brother, Tres, is a high school freshman -- and a basketball player.

"We wouldn't get fed if we didn't play," Tinkle said, laughing. "I'm just kidding."

Tinkle knows how the game works on the floor and off. She knows coaches make decisions that players must live with, and they must work hard anyway. She knows how you play doesn't always determine how much you will play.

She knows not just from the experience of growing up in a basketball family. She knows from living the experience.

Last April, the Cardinal were licking their wounds after a wrenching loss to Texas A&M in the national semifinals, no one perhaps more than Tinkle.

Don Feria/isiphotos.com

Joslyn Tinkle did not get in the game when Stanford played in the national semifinals last year, and that only made her work harder.

Tinkle did not play at all in that game, and it was a difficult pill to swallow. Friends and former coaches texted her parents to ask if she was sick. Her family had driven from Montana to Indianapolis for the Final Four.

"The Final Four experience crushed her a little bit," Wayne Tinkle said. "But I think she walked away thinking, 'I'm just going to battle and not be broken down and have a big junior year.'"

She knew she could be one of the prime candidates to replace All-American Kayla Pedersen, one of the biggest, most versatile wing players in the country.

Tinkle had played most of her two years at Stanford in the post. So she went to work becoming a "3." She stayed in Palo Alto over the summer instead of going home. She worked on her shot, her ball-handling, her perimeter defense. She owned the competition in the Pro-Am League in San Francisco.

And then she came back to school -- and basketball practice -- to find out that VanDerveer still wanted her to play at the power forward spot.

Even after starting against Texas in the season opener and finishing with 14 points and six rebounds, Tinkle ended up on the bench, or at least coming off the bench in rotation with sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike.

"You just want to be out there," Tinkle said. "That's the kind of mentality I've had the whole year. Obviously, things weren't kind of what I had worked for, but I tried not to get discouraged by that."

Tinkle acknowledged that although VanDerveer and the coaching staff don't put a huge emphasis on starting -- there have been plenty of Cardinal players who have made significant contributions off the bench throughout the years -- being in the starting lineup was her goal.

"Granted, I'm not a shooter, and I'm not the quickest '3' on the team, but I just feel that from how I worked and my experience and knowing what it takes out there, it was something I wanted to do for my team," Tinkle said. "There is a greater pressure when you are starting, and I kind of love that. I love that that is a little more pressure, that the coaches expect you to do something right away, and I like that and I like to thrive in that.

"And it's so much fun to go out there and start with your team and get the momentum going for the rest of the game."

Wayne Tinkle called his daughter "one of the most confident players I've ever known, male or female."

"It was hard watching her play not to make a mistake," he said. "We've talked about the trials and tribulations of life as an athlete and about keeping your nose to the grindstone. It's not always going to be roses. But she's a worker."

Tinkle's hopes and her work have indeed materialized into the spot she covets in the starting lineup. Tinkle entered Stanford's starting lineup eight games ago, just as the conference season began. The Pac-12 schedule has provided her a chance to increase her minutes and her impact in time for the Cardinal's postseason run.

"She is a high-energy player for us on the floor, but it's all about results," VanDerveer said in the hallway outside the media room after Stanford's win over USC. "She had a great game against Arizona, and obviously we are getting greedy. We want double-doubles."

Still, Tinkle is providing stability at that 3 spot that VanDerveer has been seeking since the year began. Freshman Taylor Greenfield has started 13 games there, but was struggling to assert herself offensively. Tinkle has been willing to be more of a scorer.

VanDerveer still believes Tinkle is "playing a little bit out of position" at small forward.

"I don't think playing her at the 3 takes advantage of the things she's best at," VanDerveer said. "And it doesn't always end up in good matchups. But she's a big strong body, and we need her in there."

Tinkle is one of the team's most gregarious players, a regular "photo-bomber" and team-video regular. She clowns around a lot with Mikaela Ruef, who has missed most of the season with a foot injury.

On the floor, she has tried to emulate Pedersen's example.

"She was such a very composed, poised player," Tinkle said. "Regardless of any game, good game, bad game, she's still the same person. I have tried to always be the same person no matter what, whether it's coming off the bench or starting, no matter how many minutes you play."

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