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KEEPING TABS / DANA HADDAD

UNC's Jones Kicks Up Her Heels

March 17, 1994|DANA HADDAD

Marion Jones is going on the record. She predicts North Carolina will win the NCAA tournament.

But her choice is not Dean Smith's squad, it is Sylvia Hatchell's Tar Heel women's team.

The men's team, the defending NCAA champion, carries a 27-6 record, the No. 1 seeding in the East Regional and a No. 1 ranking by the Associated Press into its tournament. Jones laments that the women must vie for the public's eye with a program of such stature.

"You would think it would be easier for us to get the publicity," Jones said, "because of the (attention brought by the) men."

North Carolina's women, meanwhile, are 28-2, seeded third in the East Regional and ranked fifth by AP. The women scored a first-round 101-53 victory over 14th-ranked Georgia Southern on Wednesday night.

It makes sense that Jones, a freshman from Thousand Oaks High and a national-class sprinter, has a vested interest in the women's team. She is the team's point guard.

Said Jones: "We have to work hard for the coverage we deserve."

Hard work? How about victories in 17 of the past 18 games? How about Jones being thrust into a starting role five games into the season and rising to the challenge?

She is averaging 14.8 points a game, third highest on the team. She also is averaging 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 3.3 steals and is shooting a team-best 54.3% from the field.

No publicity? Well, then, how about a friendly on-campus rivalry? Tar Heels against Tar Heels for Chapel Hill bragging rights.

"It would be great to have both the men and women win national championships," said Jones, who scored 18 points against Georgia Southern. "But that's not what's motivating me, personally. But I'm not saying I wouldn't like to be wearing a T-shirt with both of our names on it.

"I'm confident my team can win a national championship. But everything is do or die, and we've got to stay focused. Everybody we're playing now is either champions of their conference or second place in their conference. We're not playing any teams that don't know how to play ball."

Clearly, Jones knows how to play ball. She's the only freshman starting for North Carolina. She also knows how to take her game to a higher level, which is crucial in the postseason.

"I was pretty much thrown into the starting point-guard position," she said. "I was a (shooting) guard at Thousand Oaks. I was more offensive-minded. I wasn't excited about (the position change) at first. But I think I have a point-guard mentality right now.

"I was used to taking it to the basket. But now I'm looking to read the floor and give it up to who has the best shot. I'm looked at as the leader on the court."

An uncommon role for a freshman. But with Jones running the floor--and getting most of her points now from fast breaks caused by the Tar Heels' pressure defense--North Carolina could be peaking at the right time.

The Tar Heels' average margin of victory in their eight victories since losing to Virginia in early February is 16.6 points. And in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final, North Carolina routed Virginia, 77-60, avenging its two defeats.

But floor-leader Jones won't take any credit.

"There's so much talent on this team," she said. "Just playing in practice, my defense has picked up, and on offense I've had to make changes in my game. I'm practicing against three or four of the best players in the country."

*

Checking the fax: Freshman Adam Jacobsen (Crescenta Valley) capped a successful debut season for Pacific with 18 points in an 82-78 loss to UC Irvine in the Big West tournament semifinals Saturday. Fifteen of his points came on three-point baskets. Jacobsen posted team season highs of six three-pointers in a game (against UC Santa Barbara) and a perfect night at the free-throw line (nine for nine against San Jose State).

Guard Eddie Hill (Cleveland) helped lead Washington State to an NCAA tournament berth with a 27-point performance against No. 16 California on Saturday. He had seven three-pointers in the victory, tying a personal high.

Nevada Las Vegas point guard Dedan Thomas (Taft) closed out his three-year career ranked No. 4 on the Runnin' Rebels' all-time assist list (550) behind Greg Anthony (838), Danny Tarkanian (837) and Mark Wade (689). He also finished fifth in steals (153) and is one of only seven players in the 36-year history of UNLV basketball to rank in the top 10 in both steals and assists.

Oklahoma City guard Kevin Franklin (Taft) helped the Chiefs earn a berth in the NAIA Division I tournament with a team-high scoring average of 15.1 points. He shot 46.6% from three-point range during the regular season, better than his overall field-goal percentage of 45.9%.

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