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Feb. 2, 2006

by Cathy Bongiovi-Stewart

Sophomore point guard Sharneé Zoll is living her dream. As a child she idolized UVa All-American Dawn Staley (1989-92). Now she’s on track to break all of Staley’s school records.

Last season as a first-year, Zoll wrote the number `729′ on her basketball shoes, a custom she has carried over to this season. The number is Staley’s school record for career assists.

“I loved her,” Zoll recalled. “One of my memories is I was at a karate tournament in Boston. Dawn was playing with the Philadelphia Rage in the ABL, and my dad got me tickets, and we drove up. I was so sad, because I had lost the karate tournament. I came in second. We went up to see her, and I was one of the happiest girls alive. We were in one of the first rows. I remember growing up and wanting to be just like her. She came from Philly and is a great point guard.”

A native of Marlboro, N.J., a suburb of Philadelphia, Zoll led UVa in assists last season with 159, rewriting the record for a freshman, previously held by Staley with 144 in 31 games. Zoll achieved the mark in her 30th game with six assists against No. 4/3 North Carolina.

With her career-high 13 assists, one shy of the school record, against Marshall in December, Zoll moved up to No. 11 on the UVa career list for assists. After 51 career games, Zoll has 285 assists, including a team-best 126 in 18 games this season. She needs just 18 assists to break the sophomore record [143 assists by Tora Suber in 32 games from the 1994-95 season]. Averaging 6.6 assists per game, Zoll should re-set the record before the ACC Tournament.

But the true point guard gives her coach Debbie Ryan most of the credit.

“(She helps me) tremendously,” Zoll said. “I don’t think I’ve had two years where I’ve grown as much as a person and as a player like I did from my first year to my second year. She’s helped me with my decision-making. I’ve had some great coaches, but she’s taught me things that I never heard before- simple things that you wouldn’t even think of. But she knows, and she helps me with my confidence.”

“Obviously, I am going to put a lot of eggs in her basket, but she is really ready to handle all of that, and she is really ready to step up,” Ryan said in the preseason. “She is going to be the best point guard in the ACC, in my opinion. I don’t think anybody has a true point guard like her.”

Last summer, Zoll experienced basketball on the international level as a member of the 2005 USA U19 World Championship Qualifying Team which won the gold medal at the 2005 FIBA Women’s U19 World Championship in July.

The squad, coached by Duke’s Gail Goestenkors, finished the tournament with a perfect 8-0 record after dismantling Serbia & Montenegro (4-4) 97-76 in the gold medal contest in Tunisia.

Zoll treasures her experience and the trip to Africa.

“It was beyond words,” Zoll shared.”I played with some of the greatest players from high school who are going to be some of the greatest players in college- definitely the best in my class. I got to work with Coach G, Coach (Felisha) Jack, and Coach (Carol) Ross. That was an amazing experience with three different coaching styles. It helped me to grow. It was just great.”

With all of her experiences, Zoll conveys that confidence on the court. Ryan allows Zoll to run the offense and call plays on her own.

“Coming in here, that’s what I asked her. `Do you want your point guard to call the plays? Or do you want to call plays?’ That was a big deciding factor for me,” Zoll shared. “We’re on the same page pretty much. When she calls a play, I say `Coach, I already called that in the huddle down there. I’ve got this.’ We goof around a lot like that.”

Zoll’s teammates also recognized her leadership skills and named her one of the team’s captains as a sophomore.

“It’s an honor,” Zoll said. “Coming in here as a freshman, everybody knows I was kind of nervous with five seniors and me telling people what to do. That’s my job as a point guard. But it means that I’ve earned the respect of my teammates, and there’s nothing else you can ask for, especially as a point guard.”

But Zoll is unselfish. Her goals for the season put the team’s needs first.

“I just want to make everyone I’m one the floor with better every single time,” she said. “I’m just trying to be a leader on the floor, a coach on the floor. Make my parents, my coach, all my family proud.”

Zoll has more two seasons to play and some lofty goals she’d like to achieve before graduation.

“Obviously, the (assists) record,” Zoll said. “Basically I want to have my name in the same sentence as Dena Evans, Dawn Staley, Renee Taylor, people like that. (They’re) great basketball players and great people. I want to make an impact on everyone I play with.”

Zoll’s fortitude is even etched on her body in the form of tattooes.

“My left wrist has a Chinese symbol for `love’ and my right wrist has the Chinese symbol for `basketball’,” Zoll shared. “It’s not only for my love of basketball, but love is one of the most powerful emotions. And I have that for basketball, and that will never change.”

With Zoll in a Cavalier uniform, Virginia has the makings of yet another All-American.

“Sharneé is a player that I don’t think you can quantify with words,” Ryan said. “She has done so much for this program in terms of on the court and off the court. She is a player that can encourage players, but can also be an enforcer. And that’s something that’s going to be important for a leader. She is hopefully destined to have an All-American year.”

Sharneé’s Favorites

Food:	My mom's lasagnaIce cream:	Chocolate chip sandwichColor:	PurpleAthlete:	Allen Iverson, Dawn StaleyMovie:	Love & BasketballActor:	Larenz TateActress:	Sanaa LathanCartoon:	Tom & Jerry

I love to cook … pork chops soaked in French dressing.

Three words that best describe me are … determined, loyal, dedicated.

My dream profession is … modeling.

I chose my jersey number, because …of Dawn Staley. (She wears #5 in the WNBA.)

I chose Virginia, because … Debbie Ryan knows how to succeed.

My self-expectation this season is … to help the team win any way possible.

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