Words can't quite express the regard North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell has for freshman guard Marion Jones, who not only was the 1993 California high school basketball player of the year but also qualified for the 4 X 100 U.S. Olympic relay team. "Oh, man," says Hatchell of the delicious prospect of coaching Jones. "Mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmmm." In addition to finding words for Jones, Hatchell needs to find her a position, because Tonya Sampson, the ACC's leading scorer last season, is entrenched at shooting guard, Jones's most natural spot.
At Kansas, junior swingman Angela Aycock, who has been playing basketball only since 10th grade, evokes the grace and fluidity of former Jayhawk star Lynnette Woodard. If Aycock, sophomore three-point specialist Charisse Sampson and hotly recruited freshman guard Tamecka Dixon all deliver, coach Marian Washington's 21st season could be her best yet. Says Aycock, "This year we're either going farther than Kansas has ever gone, or we're going to absolutely crash."
Last season Ohio State went from the preseason-rankings netherworld all the way to the championship game. Will Katie Smith, a freshman All-America in 1992-93, look as strong without departed guards Audrey Burcy and Averrill Roberts to feed her the ball? Probably. Two international basketball tours over the summer gave Smith, a former state shot-put and discus champ from Logan, Ohio, a chance to both see the world and fine-tune her game. Says Smith, "My play is smarter, and now I've seen some Gothic cathedrals."