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Household Hot-Shot : Continuing a Family Tradition, Michelle Palmisano is Shooting Toward Stardom

February 04, 1988|MIKE HISERMAN | Times Staff Writer

Michelle Palmisano is a hot-shot basketball player who does not have to look very far to find a worthy opponent for a game of one-on-one.

To the next room, maybe?

Sisters Dina and Marguerite played at Ventura College. Teresa, a high school All-American at Buena last season, is a freshman starter at Cal.

And if they're not around, Michelle can always pick on one of her older brothers--Joey, John, Jerry and Leon.

Michelle, 14, recently won the girls' 13-15 division of the National Basketball Assn.'s Hotshot contest. She will compete in the state finals Wednesday at the Sports Arena at halftime of the Clippers game against Phoenix.

It will mark the sixth consecutive year Palmisano has advanced to the state finals in her age division.

Participants in the competition shoot three one-minute rounds from five areas on the court ranging from 12 to 18 feet in distance. Points are worth from two to five points.

At the regionals, Palmisano's score of 133 was the highest of any division, including boys 16 and 17 years old.

"She's a good shooter," said Joe Palmisano, Michelle's father. "She had a good long-range shot very early. Even when she was very young, she could get the ball up there without any struggle."

But just to make sure she doesn't go into a slump at an inopportune time, her dad supervises her workouts almost every day. "After school, we'll get together and go to the gym and I'll put her through a good hour or two of practice," Joe said.

All the Palmisano children have been active in sports. "My father, Joe Sr., was a professional baseball player. He played with Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics," Joe Jr. said. "He always said, 'You put a bat in their hands and it keeps them out of trouble.' Well, we gave them a ball instead."

Michelle, a 5-foot, 7-inch eighth-grader at Our Lady of Assumption in Ventura, plays on the school team and is averaging almost 40 points. In one game, she scored 53. The team is tied for first place in a parochial school league.

"I look for her to be an All-American at point guard," Joe said. "She dribbles the ball well right- or left-handed, she's a good shooter and a very good passer. She's the quality of Teresa."

Good thing Michelle is used to performing under pressure.

Along with the Hot-Shot competition, she also participated in the Elks hoop shoot, a national free-throw shooting contest, for six years. She was state champion five times and West regional champion twice.

"I'm pretty used to the pressure, I think," Michelle said. "When I first started, I was pretty nervous, though. I just wanted to do good so I didn't look like a fool."

Palmisano, who also was most valuable player of her school's volleyball team, will be representing the Clippers in the state finals. She has worn Laker colors the past five years, but this year the Clippers claimed the first- and third-place finishers in the regional. The Lakers got second- the fourth-place finishers. Palmisano is a Laker fan but said she doesn't mind exchanging the purple of the Lakers for the blue of the Clippers.

A more pressing question is: Which color will she wear next year? Will it be the powder blue of Buena or the navy blue of Santa Clara?

The Palmisano family has ties to both high schools.

Teresa played on Buena teams that advanced to the Southern Section 4-A final twice, winning in 1984. Leon, who transferred from Buena, is a guard on the Santa Clara junior varsity.

"I'm undecided right now," Palmisano said. "I'll have to decide this year."

If Buena wins, it may be because of a sentimental link.

"My sister Teresa was an All-American," Palmisano said. "I always wanted to follow in her footsteps."

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