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My District: Is Home to the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Champs

My District” gives NCSL members a chance to talk about life in the places they represent, from high-profile events to the fun facts only the locals know.

Earlier this month, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer and the Lady Cardinals held off the Arizona Wildcats 54-53 to win the 2021 NCAA women’s basketball title in San Antonio. It was the Stanford women’s first national title since 1992 and their third overall.

Stanford scored another impressive third when VanDerveer was named the Naismith women’s college basketball coach of the year, an honor she also received in 1990 and 2011.

We connected with California Assemblymember Marc Berman (D), whose district includes the Stanford campus, to ask what the championship means to his community. He said he wasn’t surprised the team kept its cool under pressure in the final minutes against Arizona and noted that some high-profile fans—including Golden State Warrior Steph Curry and his wife, Ayesha; and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife, Ciara—can be seen at their games on campus at Maples Pavilion.

Are you a Stanford basketball fan? Did you go to San Antonio for the game?

I am a fan and have fond memories of going to women’s and men’s Stanford basketball games when I was young. In fact, I had a babysitter for a time when I was growing up who played for the men’s team. I watched the game from home, not San Antonio.

How important is Stanford University and the team to your constituents?

Stanford University is a critical piece of my district. The district is full of Stanford alums, faculty and students. The university is also a key economic driver in the district and supports many jobs beyond just Stanford employees.

The team is also very important to the region. The Stanford women’s basketball team has regularly been one of the best in the country and is a true favorite of the community. Tara VanDerveer’s leadership of this program for decades has been remarkable. As the 2021 Naismith women’s coach of the year and the winningest women’s college coach of all time, she has made success an expectation of the Lady Cardinals.

The game went right down to the wire against Arizona. How surprised were you that the Stanford women stayed cool as Arizona kept up the pressure?

If you look at the whole tournament, it is what you come to expect from this team. They were down 38-26 at the half against Louisville in the Elite Eight and outscored them 52-25 in the second half, largely behind a 16-point second half from Ashten Prechtel. Then they kept their cool in an insane last few minutes to hold on for a one-point win against South Carolina to win in the Final Four game, so when it came time to hold onto the lead again against Arizona, it wasn’t a surprise, since they’d been there before. That being said, a blowout would have been easier on my blood pressure!

This was the Stanford women’s first national championship since 1992. What does the title mean to your district?

The bar continues to be set high. I expect even more from this team in the years to come. With Haley Jones only being a sophomore, along with Hannah Jump, Fran Belibi and Prechtel, and with Cameron Brink only being a freshman, I think it’s safe to say the Lady Cardinals will be good for some time to come. Winning the national championship is an amazing feat, but there are more victories to come.

What else should people know about your district?

The 24th Assembly District is remarkably diverse. I represent communities that are thriving in the tech economy that has blossomed around Stanford University, and communities that are really struggling under the high cost of living in the area. Over the hill, I represent 30 miles of California coast and a thriving agricultural area. I’m very fortunate to represent such a wonderful area.

Kevin Frazzini is an editor in NCSL’s Communications Division.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Stanford is also represented by California Senator Josh Becker.