Feb. 27, 2008
By JOSH DUBOW, AP Sports Writer
Friday, February 22, 2008
Saint Mary's coach Paul Thomas never was enamored with shot blockers, preferring good fundamental defense to the show of a ball being swatted into the stands.
Then he got to coach Louella Tomlinson. The 6-foot-4 freshman from Australia leads the nation in blocked shots and is on pace to set the single-season Division I record.
"I love doing it. I'm not going to lie. It's the intimidation factor," Tomlinson said. "Coach Thomas said to me he hated shot blockers on his past teams. But I think I can get away with it. I don't foul out. It is what I do. He's not going to want to take me out of my game."
Thomas still has a few disputes with his star player about how she goes about blocking shots. He wants her to tap the ball to a teammate, while sometimes she prefers to bat it out of bounds.
"She's getting better at it," Thomas said. "That's one thing we try to work with her on. Her response is that that doesn't have the affect of slapping it into the second row. I do agree with that, but it's still their possession."
Tomlinson is averaging 12.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.1 blocks per game and has just "scratched the surface" of what's she's capable of doing, according to her coach.
Tomlinson has 137 blocks so far this season. With three regular season games remaining plus the West Coast Conference tournament, Tomlinson is closing in on the freshman record of 145 set last season by Michigan State's Alyssa DeHaan and the overall record of 152 by Amie Williams of Jackson State in 2003.
"She's so darn long that I think it's just hard to get a shot over her," Thomas said. "The second thing all good shot blockers have is a sense of timing. I think Lou has that sense of a shot blocker. She has the timing and the length. It must be genetic."
Tomlinson's mother, Sandra, was known for her shot-blocking prowess as a 5-11 post player who participated on two Australian national teams at the world championships. Tomlinson's older sister, Samantha, starred at Troy State. And her father, Ray, played in the Olympics for Australia and coached her growing up.
Tomlinson played at the Australian Institute of Sport at the same time as two members of Saint Mary's nationally ranked men's team, Patty Mills and Ben Davis. The Gaels have two other Aussies on the men's team, Carlin Hughes and Lucas Walker, which was a factor in Tomlinson's decision to come to the Bay Area.
"It's helped me so much having these other Australians here, especially when I'm homesick," she said. "It gives me people to talk with about things back home."