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Oregon Suits Wilson After All

March 06, 1994|DANA HADDAD

Sara Wilson had almost stopped dreaming. Three seasons of repeated disappointments in her college basketball career made Wilson, a senior center from Hart High, almost stop expecting the achievements she always had believed were attainable at Oregon.

-- Her freshman season was cut short by a stress fracture in a shin. Oregon finished 9-9 in Pacific 10 Conference play and failed to qualify for the postseason.

-- She was limited to 13 games in her sophomore season because of a stress fracture in her right foot and a bout with mononucleosis. The Ducks fell to 6-12 in conference play.

-- Her junior season ended with two games left because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. Oregon slumped to 3-15 in the Pac-10 and Coach Elwin Heiny was fired after 17 seasons.

"It was ridiculous," Wilson said of her misfortune. She had expected success when she arrived in Eugene, a Pac-10 championship, perhaps. At least an NCAA Tournament berth.

Finally, the expectations and those faraway dreams are materializing. The Ducks are in third place in the Pac-10 at 12-4. And the 6-foot-3 Wilson is one big reason for the turnaround. She is averaging 15.2 points and 8.5 rebounds a game in conference play while leading Pac-10 players in shooting percentage at 58.2%.

"I could not have written a better script," said Wilson, 20, who is also injury free. "I cannot put it into words. It's so satisfying. It's been more than I hoped for."

Oregon (18-7) has won 11 of its past 13. A 72-60 loss to Stanford on Saturday ended a seven-game winning streak that was the school's longest since it joined the Pac-10 in 1986-87. With two conference games left, the Ducks are two games behind conference leader USC (14-2) and one back of second-place Stanford (13-3). After starting the season 7-7, the Ducks stand a good chance of at least getting an at-large berth in the expanded 48-team NCAA Tournament.

"I don't want to look back on this season and say, 'If only . . .,' " Wilson said. "This is a huge turnaround. I expected good things out of this team. But I know a lot of people had doubts with a new coach coming in."

Wilson said she liked Heiny but she is impressed by how Jody Runge's disciplined approach and match-up zone defense has worked.

"It hasn't been a hard change," Wilson said. "It's been a good one. We had two girls quit the team, but I was looking on the positive side, and the team has adapted to a new system."

Wilson has been a model of consistency at Oregon, particularly as a shooter. She began the week with 901 points and would be much closer to 1,000 if not for injuries.

"The majority of my shots are layups," she said. "I just don't think about (statistics). I just go out there and do my role."

More important to Wilson, who was part of two Southern Section championships at Hart, is winning. "We realize where we're at and where we can go," she said. "We don't take any win for granted or any team lightly, because we know what it's like to be at the bottom."


Checking the fax: North Carolina's Marion Jones (Thousand Oaks) has been named to the Atlantic Coast Conference all-freshman team. The 5-10 guard is averaging 15.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.3 steals. Her total of 87 steals ranks sixth in the school's record book for a single season. The Tar Heels, ranked fifth in the nation by Associated Press, headed into this weekend's ACC tournament with a 24-2 record. . . . In men's basketball, Oklahoma's Calvin Curry (Ventura College) scored 32 points, including 10 three-point goals, in a 92-84 victory at Colorado on Wednesday. Curry, who was 10 of 16 from three-point range, gave the Sooners the lead for good when he hit his final three-pointer, sparking a 12-2 run that gave Oklahoma an 80-78 edge with 4:11 left.

In baseball, California freshman second baseman Dan Cey (El Camino Real) leads the Bears in batting average (.386), runs (11), hits (17), triples (2), total bases (24) and slugging percentage (.667). . . . Arizona State center fielder Jacob Cruz (Channel Islands) is batting .410 and has 17 runs batted in and four home runs. He share the team lead in runs with 21. His 30-game hitting streak, fourth longest in Arizona State history, came to an end against Stanford last week. Cruz's streak started with 14 games left last year.

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