Kosiorek has been angel of mercy for West Virginia

March 22, 1992|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

Rosemary Kosiorek is becoming the stuff of which legends are made.

Youngsters around Morgantown, W. Va., clamor for her autograph after West Virginia University women's basketball games.

Instructors and sportswriters trip over themselves to say nice things about her, and just about every group that can hand out a postseason award is lining up to give her something.

She has given anti-drug talks to local youngsters, made instructional videotapes for the school's physical education department, been named to the school's honor society, given of her time as a tutor.

She's even going to marry her high school sweetheart in November.

"She cannot get enough honors," said West Virginia co-coach Scott Harrelson. "The classroom instructors say fantastic things about her work, and every professor is thrilled to have her in class. They ask if we can send all our basketball players to them because she's so good."

And, in a manner befitting someone who is too good to be true, Kosiorek, one of four seniors in the Mountaineers lineup, won't hear of talk of her being too good to be true.

"When we came in as freshmen, West Virginia basketball probably wasn't well known," said Kosiorek. "Through the years, we've started to build a tradition. I'm proud to be a part of it, and I hope it continues."

In truth, Kosiorek, 5 feet 5, is the rock upon which the rise of West Virginia women's basketball is built.

Consider that in the three seasons before Kosiorek arrived from Mercy High, where she twice was an All-Metro first-team selection, the Mountaineers had a 40-46 record. Their main claim to fame, perhaps, was that this was the school where a woman first dunked in a regular-season game.

With Kosiorek in the lineup, West Virginia has gone 85-33, including this season's school-record 25-3. That could improve in today's second-round NCAA tournament home game against Clemson.

"She wanted to make this the greatest season in West Virginia University history. She's done that," said Harrelson. "Anything we get from here on would be gravy."

And what a gravy year this has been for Kosiorek, who, at Harrelson's orders, picked up her scoring pace.

She is averaging 24.3 points (sixth in the nation) and 6.8 assists (20th nationally), shooting 56 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three-point range.

Kosiorek has been in double figures in every game this year, including a career-high 37 points in January against Marshall. That tied a school record, and she has had at least seven assists in 14 games, including a school-record 15 against Duquesne last month.

"Coach Harrelson has had to drill it into me to score more," said Kosiorek. "In the past, I've tried to get everybody going. I figured if I could keep them involved, it's better for all of us."

"This year, I told her I wanted her to score first and then look to get other people into the flow," said Harrelson. "She's just a Michelangelo out there. She's a real artist."

Kosiorek, one of only two players in school history to score more than 2,000 points, is a strong candidate for the Kodak All-America team, to be announced next month at the Final Four.

She is a strong contender for the Naismith and Women's Basketball Coaches Association's Player of the Year awards, as well as for the Wade Trophy, after winning Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors.

Kosiorek, for the second straight year, was named first-team Academic All-America by the College Sports Information Directors of America. She sports a 3.8 grade-point average in accounting.

All of this season's accomplishments are framed against the backdrop of serious ailments that hit her mother, Mary Ann, and older brother, Kenny, who each underwent surgery during the year.

Both have recovered, and during the ordeal, Kosiorek kept her focus and continued to excel on and off the court.

"It kind of put a lot of things in perspective," said Kosiorek. "Life is so short and throws a lot of things to you. It [the illnesses] kept me in focus."

When one sees the numbers that Kosiorek has put up, it's hard to believe that few major Division I schools recruited her, fearing that she was too small or hadn't been tested against big-time competition.

Today, perhaps the only player in women's college basketball who has achieved as much as Kosiorek is last year's national Player of the Year, guard Dawn Staley of Virginia, whom the Mountaineers would likely meet if they get past Clemson.

"The only thing I regret is that she has not had the kind of off-guard to play with as Dawn Staley has," said Harrelson. "It's hard to really tell how good she could have been. They both have tremendous speed and tremendous court awareness."

Kosiorek, in an earlier loss to Virginia, had 25 points and five assists, and came away impressed with Staley.

"She's probably the best player I've seen. She does it all so well. We differ on our type of game, but I think she is great," said Kosiorek.

Both could end up playing for the U.S. Olympic team this summer in Barcelona, Spain.

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