Thursday, March 22, 2001

Cincinnati prep star making mark at Tennessee

Taylor grad Pillow impresses Summit with toughness

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Shalon Pillow and coach Pat Summit.
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        After three rocky seasons on Rocky Top, it took an injury to help Shalon Pillow realize her potential at Tennessee.

        The Taylor High graduate, a 6-foot-3 junior center, will face one of her hometown teams Saturday when the third-ranked Vols (31-2) meet Xavier (30-2) in a Sweet 16 matchup in Birmingham, Ala. Pillow has been a steady contributor since returning Feb.25 from a knee injury that essentially sidelined her for a month.

        “My time out (of the lineup), I really saw where I could make a difference,” she said. “I worked on those things in practice and showed Coach (Pat Summitt) how I could help.”

        How? By being a banger.

        “She gives us a strong, physical presence,” Summitt said. “She's playing with confidence and playing the best basketball of her career here.”

        In her past four games, Pillow has averaged 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 12.8 minutes. That's a big jump over the averages of 2.3 points and 1.6 rebounds she had in the first 29 games — of which she played 16, averaging 7.3 minutes.

        Pillow, a Parade All-Amer ican at Taylor, averaged three points and 1.7 rebounds as a freshman, then 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds as a sophomore. Waiting her turn has been tough.

        “It was frustrating, but you've got to realize you're playing with the best people in the nation,” she said.

        Pillow has a career field goal percentage of 59.2 percent (87-of-147).

        “With Shalon, we've seen spurts of greatness,” Summitt said. “You never know when you're going to reach that point where it all fits together. She has reached that point.”

        Mason High senior Michelle Munoz, a two-time Ohio Miss Basketball winner, will join Pillow at Tennessee next season.

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