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Original Issue

The Centers Will Hold

A passel of post players could be the key to postseason success for these title-hopeful teams

SYLVIA FOWLES hasbeen in Tina Charles's face all season. In November, Charles, Connecticut'ssophomore center, affixed a newspaper photo to her locker that showed Fowles inmid-flight, swatting away one of Charles's shot attempts during LSU's 73--50win in last year's NCAA regional final in Fresno. The accompanying articledescribed Fowles's big night: 23 points, 15 rebounds, six blocks and threesteals. Charles, meanwhile, went 0 for 5 and finished with one point, threerebounds and three turnovers. In their Feb. 25 rematch in Baton Rouge, Charlesscored 18 points, including a number of clutch baskets over Fowles, as UConnwon 74--69. The centers, both Wooden Award finalists, are among an exceptionalgroup of post players who could determine this year's NCAA champion. "Coach[Vivian] Stringer always says that the tournament is when guards rule,"says Rutgers junior center Kia Vaughn. "But I feel post players rule thisyear. Teams [will] go as far as we take them." Here's the skinny on thebiggest women (besides Fowles) on campus this March.

Tina Charles
UConn, Soph., 6'3"

As splendid asfreshman forward Maya Moore has been, UConn coach Geno Auriemma says theHuskies' postseason fate likely lies with Charles, who averaged 14.8 points and9.4 rebounds and led the Big East with 1.85 blocks per game. "She has greatfeet and great hands, and that gives her versatility," says LSU associatehead coach Bob Starkey.

Kia Vaughn
Rutgers, Jr., 6'4"

She might not beas big a name as Fowles, but the LSU coaching staff knows all about Vaughn. Oneof the few players in the country who can match Fowles in strength, Vaughn heldthe Lady Tigers' center to 13 points in a 45--43 Scarlet Knights win inNovember. "She'll make you change what you do," says Fowles. "Shedoesn't get a lot of recognition, but she's a great post player."

Maryland, Sr., 6'2"

Langhorne (16.7points and 9.2 rebounds) is the first player in school history to score 2,000points and grab 1,000 rebounds. She offers a dimension other posts don't—shecan put the ball on the floor—and she rarely takes a bad shot. (She's hitting65% from the field.) "She's undersized," says Vaughn, "but she'llgo up against a girl who is 6'5" or 6'6" and still be a forceinside."

Courtney Paris
Oklahoma, Jr., 6'4"

The surest thingin women's hoops is that Paris (18.7 points and 15.1 rebounds) will finish witha double double. She has done so 90 straight times and in 95 of 98 careergames. "Courtney has the edge over everybody because she is big [240pounds]," says Vaughn. "She's also one of the most mobile post playersI've gone up against. She has great moves around the basket."

Jayne Appel
Stanford, Soph., 6'4"

As the insidecomplement to All-America guard Candace Wiggins, Appel has averaged 14.2 pointsand 8.8 rebounds. She pulled down 14 boards in wins over Tennessee and in thePac-10 tournament final against Cal. "She's more versatile than a lot ofthe post players because she can hit threes," says Vaughn. "She dragsyou out and makes you guard her outside."