Returning for NCAA champion North Carolina are buzzer-beating star Charlotte Smith (page 82) and sophomore guard sensation Marion Jones, who reveals new superhuman qualities every week. Already faster than most mortals, Jones recently showed an alarming indifference to pain by ripping off a cracked big toenail in front of two horrified trainers—just so she could get back to practice. "We only scrimmage for 20 minutes," said Jones, "and I hate to miss that."
Speaking of a Tar Heel not missing, Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore has stopped agonizing over that Charlotte Smith three-point shot that came between his team and the title last April. "After three weeks, I got tired of being miserable," he says. Four returning starters must learn to play without Pam Thomas, last year's senior point guard, to have another shot at the title.
In senior guard Niesa Johnson, Alabama has a team leader who is both All-America and All- AT&T She rings up huge phone bills to keep in touch with friends from summer basketball teams and picks up scouting reports on Crimson Tide foes along the way. Johnson's outlook for her own team? "Every single player on this team can penetrate, shoot and rebound," she says.
Life at Penn State is so tradition-bound that coach Rene Portland has ordered the same team dinner, lasagna, at the same restaurant, The Tavern, before every home game for the last 14 years. Nevertheless, the Lady Lions will sport a lot of new looks this year, not all of them courtesy of senior guard Katina Mack, who wears 23 different hairdos in this year's team media guide.
What will become of Iowa, a team that successfully recruited so many of this year's top newcomers that the Hawkeye freshman class is already being called the Sensational Seven? The seven are already six, now that forward Angela Hamblin has to sit out for academic reasons, but in time they will be formidable. For now, though, coach Vivian Stringer is making no promises.