Thursday, November 23, 2000

With much expected, Munoz gives more

Mason's senior center thrives despite pressure

By Dave Schutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Michelle Munoz has signed to play for Tennessee.
(Enquirer file photo)
| ZOOM |
        Ken Griffey Jr. and David Bell experienced it at Moeller High School, as did Pete Rose Jr. at Western Hills.

        Children of former professional athletes often are expected to meet higher standards than those set for other athletes at the school.

        Michelle Munoz, the daughter of Cincinnati Bengals Hall of Fame offensive lineman Anthony, faced the same dilemma in 1997 during basketball tryouts at Mason High School. And even though expectations for her were high, she has exceeded them.

        Munoz, who has signed to play in college for Tennessee, is closing in on Mason's career scoring and rebounding records and is considered the best college prospect in the Cincinnati area since Carol (Madsen) Miller broke every offensive record at Reading from 1985-89 to play college ball at Purdue. After two years there Miller transfered to Xavier, where she led the Musketeers in scoring and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

        With Munoz at center, the Comets are 59-0 in regular season games and 18-2 in tournament play. They have won three Fort Ancient Valley Conference, sectional and district titles, two regional titles and one state championship.

        This past summer, Munoz and Mason teammate Jere' Issenmann played for the Ohio Warriors, an 18-and-under team that won the national AAU championship.

        “I played a lot facing the basket because that's where I'll play at Tennessee,” Munoz said. “My outside shooting has improved, but I plan to continue working on it this season.”

        Munoz has scored 1,316 career points, 320 behind leader Dallas Williams, and has 628 rebounds and 67 assists.

        “My only personal goal is to do the best that I can every day for God,” said Munoz.

        This season, Mason is No.9 in the USA Today Super 25 rankings. But unlike the previous three seasons when coach Gerry Lackey's team was loaded with veteran players, this year the Comets return only Munoz and Issenmann, a 5-foot-10 senior guard.

        “We lost five good players, which makes it important to be patient with each other,” Munoz said. “Practices are different. We run the offense slower so everybody learns. With time, we'll get better.”

        With three new starters and a team short on varsity experience, Munoz realizes the road ahead may be difficult but feels prepared for the challenge.

        “When I came in as a freshman, the team had a state championship (1986 state runner up) appearance behind them,” Munoz said. “Everyone wanted to return. They showed me how hard we had to work to make it, and that's what we must do with the younger players.”

        Helping defending the Comets' Division I state championship is one of the team's goals that Munoz will go after, as well as keeping alive the team's 97-game winning streak in the FAVC.

        But avoiding foul trouble is a major concern for Munoz, who often was called for touch fouls last season.

        “In AAU ball, it was very physical underneath and fouls were seldom called,” Munoz said. “It's different in high school, and I'll have to remember to move my feet and not my hands.”

        Lackey, who has a 225-20 record in 10 years at Mason and is 315-44 overall, has been impressed with Munoz's play during preseason scrimmages and practices.

        “Michelle keeps improving and should have a tremendous season,” Lackey said. “She's ready to assume more of the load and people will enjoy watching her play.”

        As for pressure, Lackey isn't sure if Munoz feels it.

        “She's pretty level headed and doesn't let pressure bother her,” Lackey said. “She approaches every game and practice with intensity. The only pressure is the pressure she puts on herself.”

        Mason's schedule is its toughest in years. The Comets play in the Nashville (Tenn.) Classic as well as their own eight-team holiday tournament which includes Canton McKinley, Cleveland East Tech, Shaker Heights and Canton Central Catholic.


Mason unanimous No. 1 in Division I
McNicholas tops Div. II-IV poll - barely