AP reports on some history being made Sunday in the NCAA women’s tournament.
Candace Parker is a redshirt freshman for Tennessee who can play every position and distribute the ball as easily as she scores. Oh yeah, she dunks, too.
The 6-foot-4 Parker became the first woman to dunk in an NCAA Tournament game Sunday, jamming one-handed on a breakaway just 6:12 into the second-seeded Lady Vols’ 102-54 victory against an Army team that was making its NCAA Tournament debut. Then, for good measure, Parker ensured her place in basketball lore by becoming the first to do it twice in a college game with another one-hander on the baseline. She finished with 26 points in 26 minutes, and added five rebounds, a career-high seven assists, four blocks, two steals — and the feeling of an obstacle cleared.
“It’s a relief to finally do it and get it over with and be done with it,” said Parker, who’s been peppered with questions from fans and even her teammates about when she would finally throw one down in a game.
Parker also made history two years ago as the first woman to win the McDonald’s Slam Dunk contest.
There are moments, stunning indelible moments, that transcend sport, crumble barriers and create icons. There’s Billie Jean King beating Bobby Riggs at the Astrodome in 1973. Brandi Chastain clinching the Women’s World Cup in 1999. Annika Sorenstam teeing off at the Colonial last May.
On Monday night, in a cozy high school gymnasium southeast of Oklahoma City, a 17-year-old high school senior named Candace Parker turned in the latest moment. Parker beat out five male competitors to win the Slam Dunk contest of the McDonald’s High School All-American Game. She won with aplomb, too, darting down the left side of the lane, covering her eyes with her left arm and flushing home a right-handed dunk. At 9:06 p.m. CT, Parker sparked a raucous ovation, chest bumps from her teammates and officially launched herself as the female answer to LeBron James.
Parker, who will play for Tennessee next season, stands just a shade under 6-feet-4 and can play all five positions on the floor. The first two-time winner of the Naismith National Player of the Year award, Parker already was billed as the most ballyhooed women’s high school athlete ever. That’s before she joined James, Carmelo Anthony and Vince Carter on the list of McDonald’s Dunk Contest winners. “I’m not surprised, she really plays at the rim,” Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt said Tuesday afternoon after learning of Parker’s winning performance. “Obviously, Candace is a very special player. She’s going to be good for the women’s game. She’s the kind of individual who has a lot of charisma and personality.”
Yes, Parker’s performance suggests she could usher women’s college basketball further into the mainstream with the sport’s sexiest play — the dunk. Only five dunks have been recorded during a women’s college game, three by Tennessee’s Michelle Snow. There has been only one in the WNBA, a Lisa Leslie flush in 2002. “That would be my dream,” Parker said. “For 10 years from now for three or four girls entering the dunk contest and it’s not a big deal.”
We might get there. Whether we’ll get to the point where the woman won’t have a huge edge just because of the novelty factor is another question.
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