An off-court jester, Terps' Colleton has serious game face Although out of position, point guard adds stability

January 19, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Katrina Colleton has developed a reputation as the cutup on the Maryland women's basketball team, the one player most likely to make the rest of the squad break up in laughter.

"Katrina's hysterical," said forward Bonnie Rimkus. "She's one of the funniest people I've ever met. I laugh at her constantly. She always has my stomach hurting and my eyes watering."

On the court, however, Colleton wears the perpetual game face, a mug that would not crack a smile even if forced to watch 100 hours of Three Stooges shorts.

"I like to make everyone laugh, but on the court, it's different," said Colleton, a 5-foot-11 senior guard from Tampa, Fla. "I don't like to smile unless we're winning by a lot, like we have the game wrapped up."

Colleton's play certainly has given coach Chris Weller a lot to smile about this season, as the fifth-ranked Terps (11-2) get ready for tomorrow's home game against No. 10 Virginia.

Colleton is second to center Jessie Hicks in scoring with a 13.5 average, leads the team in assists at a 4.2 clip, and she and North Carolina guard Tonya Sampson are the only two Atlantic Coast Conference players to be ranked in the top 10 in field-goal accuracy (51 percent) and free-throw percentage (78 percent).

She scored 23 points in last Thursday's 77-66 road win over No. 24 Georgia Tech, but her best overall game might have come a week earlier at Clemson, then ranked 19th. Colleton helped the Terps pull out a 64-60 win with 19 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

And she's doing all this while playing out of position. Colleton, the team's best athlete, probably is more suited to play either shooting guard or small forward, but has been forced to the point-guard slot for a couple of reasons.

First, preseason All-American Malissa Boles and Rimkus, Maryland's best outside shooter, are safely ensconced at the other perimeter slots, though Colleton is outscoring them and has a higher shooting percentage than either.

More importantly, Colleton, who has played all three wing positions in four years at Maryland, has experience at the point. When freshman Lena Patterson and sophomore Karon Ferguson failed to claim the slot in the early going, Weller turned to her old reliable. So far, Colleton hasn't let her down.

"I'm very comfortable with the job that Katrina's doing," said Weller. "It makes us a slightly different kind of team. We're a bigger team, maybe not as quick. We play a little more zone with the big lineup, but it does give us a degree of flexibility so that we can play both styles of lineups in a game."

For her part, Colleton has played the good soldier.

"I'd prefer to play the wing, but the point is fine," she said. "It's no big deal. . . . I haven't got as much time [in the past] as I have this year, but if somebody got hurt, I'd have to play this position or another."

Last summer, Colleton won a spot on the Jones Cup team that won a gold medal in international competition in South Korea.

The Jones Cup squad is considered the most prestigious women's team after the Olympic team, and Colleton, a surprise selection, developed confidence by testing her skills against some of the best the world had to offer.

"I kind of looked at myself and said, 'I'm one of the best players here,' " said Colleton. "I may have looked at [former Virginia guard] Dawn Staley before and said, 'Oh, she's awesome. I could never be able to guard her.' But playing against her in practice every day, I saw that she has some weaknesses. She's not totally great."

For Maryland's season to be totally great, the Terps will need to advance to the Final Four. Last season they collapsed in the second half of the Mideast Regional championship against Western Kentucky.

This year, nothing short of Atlanta, the Final Four site, will make Colleton smile.

"We see ourselves as a top four team," she said. "We see ourselves staying at least close to where we are right now. We have very high goals."

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