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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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Women’s Hoops: Role players crucial to success

By Natalie Dicou

Since coming to Utah, senior Jessica Perry and junior Katie King haven’t enjoyed much time in the spotlight. After games, reporters often wait outside Utah’s locker room eager to speak with the team’s star players. Perry and King stride by reporters — more often than not — unnoticed.

It’s not that the duo is unworthy of recognition — it’s that Utah’s other three starters are legitimate stars. However, part of what has helped the Utes reach No. 12 in the national rankings and go 16-0 in conference is that the team consists of a healthy balance of stars and role players.

Topping the list of dutiful role players are Perry and King — Utah’s starting bigs.

Perry, a Guelph, Ontario, native, averages 6.5 points and 5.5 rebounds, and is always charged with guarding the opponent’s best post player.

“I think she’s a great screener for us,” said Leilani Mitchell, who was named the MWC Player of the Year on Monday. “She gets some big rebounds for us, and when she can knock down that high-post shot, I mean, that just takes our team to a whole other level. It just makes us a lot harder to defend.”

Perry is one of two Utes, along with Deanne Stevenson, who stand 6-foot-3. At times, Utah’s starting center can readily hit outside jumpers. Other times, she struggles to make point-blank put-backs.

Utah head coach Elaine Elliott said she is no longer frustrated that Perry occasionally misjudges the occasional close-range shot.

“We’ve sort of given up on that part of it,” Elliott said. “We just wanted Jess to have her best year instead of having an expectation for exactly what that had to be, and I think that’s helped her just get comfortable with what she does, what she does well. She just does the best she can.”

Perry has been a four-year starter and was a member of the famed 2006 team that went to the Elite Eight. She was a role player on that team, too, playing behind Utah stars Kim Smith and Shona Thorburn.

“We just ask her to be consistent in support roles, and she’s been perfect for us,” Elliott said. “This is her best year. I feel like she is the most consistent (that she’s ever been). By far it’s been her best (year), and that’s what you want to see happen with a senior.”

King is the other lesser-known Utah starter. The power forward is a Salt Lake Community College transfer in her first year as a Division-I athlete and she already chips in 6.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per outing. King led the Utes in blocks with 28 this season-10 more than any other Utah player.

“I think (Katie has) been solid all year long,” Mitchell said. “She finishes inside. She’s a good screener, too, and she gets some key rebounds for us.”

King, according to Mitchell, makes contributions that can’t be measured in a box score.

“She just gives us toughness,” Mitchell said. “She’ll battle anyone and she’s not afraid, and I think that’s really helped her all throughout the year.”

King came to Utah with a winning mindset. As a senior at Layton High, she led the Lancers to a 5A state championship. After averaging 12 points and seven rebounds in her first year at SLCC, she transferred to the U.

“She’s been willing to subvert the fact that we’re a perimeter-oriented team,” Elliott said. “She just grinds it out in there and keeps posting and keeps rebounding and keeps getting available for inside dish opportunities, and she’s happy to do it. I couldn’t ask for more.”

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