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The Tar HeelTuesday, July 21, 19875
'Street player' Donnell says she resents meddling coaches
By MIKE BERARDINO
If Liza Donnell had her way,
there would be no basketball
coaches at the U.S. Olympic
Festival, and the games themselves
would be played outside on the
blacktop instead of inside the
You see, Donnell, a rising junior
at UNC and a member of the
Festival's East women's basketball
team, classifies herself as a "street
The fast break is Donnell's
domain and she's only comforta
ble when going full-tilt. As a result,
Donnell has little patience with
coaches who try to make the
basketball court their personal
laboratory, mixing combinations
and styles in an effort to find that
"The coaches say that I get
caught up in playing a street
game," she said. "But I think the
street game is the best. It's just a
matter of combining that street
game with your organized game
to create that awesome game."
An awesome game was what
Donnell had against Duke in last
year's regular-season finale.
Before a big crowd in Cameron
Indoor Stadium, the 5-foot-5
Donnell poured in a game-high 19
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points and provided the spark that
carried UNC to an 83-67 win over
the Blue Devils.
That was unquestionably the
high point of Donnell's college
career, a career which has also had
its share of high turnover-low
In her sophomore season, Don
nell started just nine of 29 games,
but still managed to lead the Tar
Heels in steals with 50. She
averaged 9.1 points and 2.3
rebounds a game.
The speedy Donnell's natural
ability is never questioned. What
coaches continually ride her
about, though, is her judgment
deciding when to force the tempo
and when to slow things down.
"I'm getting a little tired of
hearing how I should play under
control," Donnell said. "Some
times it goes in one ear and out
"I'm playing and she's not," said
Donnell, referring to coaches in
general. "Only I know how it feels
out there on the court and I make
my best judgment."
Throughout her career, the
Newark, N.J., native has played
the game at breakneck speed,
sometimes at the expense of her
"Sure, I like to run and gun.
But IH play the slow-down game,
too, as long as I can be the one
to determine it," Donnell said. "If
I take off down the court and I'm
in a groove and I'm in a flow and
(the coach) tells me to hold it up,
Donnell, who unsurprisingly
has no interest in a future coaching
career, recommends a hands-off
approach to mentors everywhere.
"A lot of these girls (at
Festival) are street players,
then the coaches get them and they
want them to play organized,"
Donnell said. "I feel the coaches
shouldn't take away the street
game. Do you think Michael
Jordan plays an organized game?
Of course not. He combines the
While it saddens Donnell that
some of her fellow "street players"
will be changed by their Festival
experience, she is determined to
avoid that unthinkable fate.
"It's not going to happen to me,"
she said. "These coaches aren't
going to change me, because I
know this Festival only lasts for
two weeks. I'm not going to
change my game just for two
weeks. I'm going to play the game
the way I know how, because
that's how I made this team."
The story of how Donnell made
the Festival team is almost as
interesting as her lengthy anti
After being cut in tryouts before
the last two Festivals, Donnell
finally made good this April at the
Eastern tryout camp in Norfolk,
She almost didnt allow the
third time to prove itself as a
"For a while, I was ready to give
up on it," Donnell admitted.
"Then I said, why not go for it
one more time? And if I don't
make it this time, at least 111 know
where their program is at that
the coaches are looking for their
kind of players and that's it."
At the April camp, held at Old
Dominion University and con
ducted by East coach Ceal Barry
of the University of Colorado,
Donnell's natural talent finally
. "The caliber of talent was very
low, so those players who were
very good just stood out," she said.
"When we scrimmaged up there,
I could do just about anything I
wanted. The girls I was playing
with were street players, so we
looked good playing together and
we executed just fine, even though
we didn't even have a play."
Now that she has finally arrived
at the Festival, Donnell would like
to settle an old score.
"I hope to play so well at this
Festival," she said, "that all those
people who were on the commit
tees when I tried out before will
say, 'Man, why did we cut her?
We sure did make a mistake.' "
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