Saturday, March 24, 2001

Taylor's Pillow finding stride with Lady Vols

XU Notebook

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Imagine former Taylor High School star Shalon Pillow of the Tennessee Lady Vols in Xavier's lineup.

        XU coach Melanie Balcomb tried to keep the former Addyston resident at home.

        “Xavier did recruit me out of high school. I made an unofficial visit,” Pillow said Friday, the day before Tennessee's game with Xavier in the Mideast Regional. “It's ironic that we cross paths here, but it's just another game.”

        Pillow, a 6-foot-3 junior center, has played in 20 games for the Lady Vols this season. She has averaged more than five points and almost two rebounds a game in the past six games and is starting to realize her potential as a college player.

        “I really want to contribute to this team,” Pillow said. “I couldn't help the team sitting on the bench.”

        Coach Pat Summitt has noticed Pillow's advancement.

        “I think Shalon has turned her whole attitude around, her intensity in practice, her commitment,” Summitt said. “It's so much better. She's making the type of progress now we've been waiting for, and the timing is excellent. She has had daily improvement. You never know when a player might get comfortable, and she's playing with confidence.”

        Pillow has a soft spot for Xavier, except for today.

        “The first college game I went to was at Xavier,” she said. “They've always had a good team. They were just one or two players short of really being able to compete on a national level. It doesn't surprise me they're here because they've always been good.”

        KEEPING UP WITH JONES: The other teams in the Mideast Regional are Texas Tech and Purdue.

        Beth Jones, a former Mason High School star, is a freshman at Purdue. The 5-9 guard has played in 17 games, averaging 1.9 points, and has five steals and seven assists.

        “It's been a difficult experience, a good experience, but a little frustrating,” Jones said after Purdue's practice Friday. “I haven't had as much playing time as I'd like. But I've learned a lot from the seniors. This is a new game. This tournament makes it all worthwhile.”

        Jones' former Mason teammate, Michelle Munoz, will play at Tennessee next season.

        “She'll do great. She doesn't need any advice,” Jones said of Munoz.

        OVER PARR: XU senior guard Jennifer Parr has made the most of this season.

        Parr played in 42 games her first three seasons, starting only two. She has started all 32 games for the Musketeers this season.

        Her numbers are up across the board. Minutes a game: from 7.8 to 34.2. Points: 78 to 214. Steals: 15 to 33. Rebounds: 25 to 72.

        NOW OR LATER: Balcomb needs one victory to become the winningest coach in Xavier history. She is tied with Mark Ehlen at 120 victories. Balcomb is 122-58 in six seasons. Ehlen, now at Toledo, was 122-130 from 1986-95.

        REVENGE MOTIVE: Tennessee guard Semeka Randall played at Trinity High in Cleveland and once lost in the state tournament to Elida High, which was led by Xavier forward Jennifer Phillips.

        “They kicked our butt, and, yes, I cried,” said Randall, a senior who was named to the Kodak All-America team as a junior.

        Randall is averaging 10.6 points and 5 rebounds a game this season.

        PICKPOCKET: Nicole Levandusky has 104 steals this season, breaking the school record of 100 she set last year. She is the career steals leader with 370.

        ASSIST: Reetta Piipari needs five assists to set a single-season record. Her 271 are second to Nikki Kramer's 275 in 1998-99.

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