Basketball

Women College Ballers:Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Women College Ballers:Bigger, Stronger, Faster

What to Watch: Big Players Evolve in Women’s Game

From dunks to 3s, women’s game features taller, more versatile ‘bigs’ than ever before

By JOHN ZENOR AP Sports Writer
March 18, 2010 (AP)  The Associated Press
There’s been a growth spurt in women’s basketball.

Fans watching the NCAA women’s tournament will see more versatile 6-foot-3 or taller players than ever, a couple playing above the rim and plenty facing the basket with guard skills — their games patterned more after LeBron than Kareem.”Back in the day, if you were a big person, you were a back-to-the-basket kind of player,” says Anne Donovan, a 6-8 force who won Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1988 and was the 1983 college player of the year at Old Dominion. “It was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the men’s game, and the women’s game had the same style players.

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Stanford forward Kayla Pedersen, front, gets inside California forward/center DeNesha Stallworth to take a shot in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Pac-10 women’s tournament in Los Angeles, Saturday, March 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
(AP)
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  • “Our game has evolved like the men, where we’re not back-to-the-basket for post players any more. I think you started seeing that evolution with (6-5) Lisa Leslie and it’s just continued.”

Has it ever.

Coaches say the increasing popularity of the women’s game has resulted in more girls playing at an early age, and these players are more skilled. Though the game is growing, the average woman isn’t — she still stands about 5-4. Women on average have grown just eight-10ths of an inch since the early 1960s, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Still, the major conferences feature a host of athletic, versatile players. National championship contenders like Tennessee and Stanford enter the NCAA tournament with the size of many men’s teams in smaller conferences. Even their point guards are 6-footers. A look at rosters from the six major conferences — Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Pacific-10 — from the mid-1990s shows that the number of 6-3 or taller players has nearly doubled in some cases. And their roles have grown along with their stature. What Leslie started, 6-4 Candace Parker took to another level as a do-it-all forward/guard/center at Tennessee, knocking down 3-pointers, dunking off the dribble.

Now there is Brittany Griner (photo left-AP Photo/Denny Medley), Baylor’s towering 6-8 freshman, who has gained YouTube fame with her dunks and blocks. Stanford’s 6-4 Kayla Pedersen leads one of the tournament’s top contenders in scoring and rebounding, but has also drilled 49 3-pointers in 31 games and is second on the team with 86 assists.

  • This year’s Lady Vols features 12 players 5-10 or taller, topping out with 6-6 center Kelley Cain. “Just the mobility of the post players throughout the country, it’s amazing to me, compared to let’s say 10 years ago,”

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