Nikki Teasley has been making boys look foolish on the
basketball court all her life, so this was nothing new. Teasley,
a point guard and the most heralded freshman woman ever to come
to North Carolina to play basketball, was taking part in a
pickup game in Woollen Gymnasium this fall when she drove to the
basket from the left side, deftly slipped the ball behind her
back with her left hand and then threw her left hand toward the
hoop as if she were attempting a layup. Her male defender, a
member of the Tar Heels jayvee, attempted to block her "shot,"
slamming his hand against the backboard with a loud thwack! just
as the teammate to whom Teasley had made the dish casually laid
the ball in on the other side of the rim. The entire gym hooted
Tar Heels senior forward Tracy Reid, last season's ACC player of
the year, had stopped by Woollen with no intention of playing.
But when she saw Teasley execute that move, she sprinted for the
locker room. "I was grabbing whatever workout clothes I could
find," Reid says. "I even got in trouble because I didn't get
taped. But when I saw her do that, I said, 'That's somebody I
want to play with.' I had to get out there."
Teasley may be a point guard, but at 6'1" she has the size of a
power forward. She could do for women's basketball what the 6'9"
Magic Johnson did for the men's game. "Nikki does some things
with the basketball that I've never seen a female do," says
North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell.
The biggest beneficiary of a lot of those things will be Reid, a
5'11" senior forward who led the conference in scoring (20.8
points per game) and rebounding (10.1) last season. The Tar
Heels have two other starters returning from a team that won the
ACC regular season and tournament and got a No. 1 seed in the
NCAA tournament before being upset by George Washington in the
East Regional semifinals. Junior Chanel Wright is a graceful and
versatile 6-foot forward who was second for North Carolina last
season in rebounds and assists, and 6'4" senior center Sheneika
Walker gives the Heels solid rebounding and defense in the post.
Hatchell can only dream about what might have been if she still
had guard Marion Jones--North Carolina's second-leading scorer,
who left school with a year of eligibility remaining to pursue a
track career--as her fifth starter. Instead, that spot will
probably be filled by junior Jessica Gaspar, provided she is
fully recovered from the torn ACL she suffered in her left knee
in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
For all the Tar Heels' talent, if they're to make it to the
Final Four in Kansas City next spring, they'll have to rely
heavily on Teasley's magic. Or at least her ability to imitate
Magic. "I want to be the best," Teasley says. "I know that's
going to take a lot of work. It starts right here." --SETH DAVIS
Returning Starters [Three]
Points per Game '96-97 78.4
PPG by All Returning Players 60.5