Albuquerque Journal, N.M., Rick Wright column
Jan 27, 2013 (Albuquerque Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Ihave, I confess, been known to journalistically leap before I look. During the 1998-99 Lobo men's basketball season, I fearlessly predicted that freshman John Robinson III would become the best point guard of the Dave Bliss coaching era.
The next season, Bliss was gone -- closely followed by Robinson, beaten out of a starting job by Fran Fraschilla recruit Marlon Parmer. Robinson went on to a decent career at Nebraska. Parmer We don't have the time or the space.
Here's another example, brought to mind by the Lobo women's 63-39 thumping at the hands of San Diego State on Saturday night at the Pit.
Junior guard Sara Halasz was one of the few bright spots, scoring a team-high nine points and grabbing five rebounds off the bench. She had one lovely assist and probably would have had more, if her teammates had been able to find the basket with a GPS device; the Lobos were 17-of-49 from the field.
"Sara just gave some great energy," coach Yvonne Sanchez said. "I like what she did the whole game. She tried to pick her teammates up."
Yet, there was also the other Halasz -- the Sara who can get to the basket with incredible ease but has trouble finishing.
And, once again, I saw the Halasz who, not entirely through a fault of her own, has never yet become the player I thought she could be.
In 2008, when Halasz was a freshman, I wrote in this space that she and point guard Amy Beggin -- then a junior -- might be to the Lobos what Abby Garchek and Tamika Stukes were to coach Don Flanagan's first NCAA Tournament team back in 1997.
Beggin, now the UNM women's video coordinator, finished a fine career in 2010. Was she as good as Stukes Better in some respects, not as good in others.
During Halasz's freshman and sophomore years, she showed only flashes of the talent I saw during the 2008 preseason-- the athleticism and aggressiveness that made me think she could be the next Garchek.
She struggled with her outside shot, and also with Flanagan's quick hook.
Then in successive years, she tore the ACL in the same knee.
During the just-past football season, I told oft-injured UNM quarterback B.R. Holbrook that only Halasz rivaled him as the hardest-luck Lobo of recent years.
Now, she's back -- a fifth-year junior. And she continues to display the talent that had me throwing verbal bouquets her way five years ago.
But only in flashes.
This season, Halasz scored in double figures in each of UNM's first six games. Then, she hit a rough patch. In late December, after she went 2-of-15 from the field in road losses to UTEP and Colorado, Sanchez removed her from the starting lineup.
Halasz played only 17 minutes combined against UNLV and Fresno State, managing just four points but committing six turnovers.
Then, the good Sara began to resurface.
In a victory over Boise State at the Pit, Halasz scored only five points -- but contributed six rebounds and five assists.
In Wednesday's win at Colorado State, she had 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
Saturday against the Aztecs, whose defensive quickness effectively took leading scorer Caroline Durbin out of the game, Halasz was the Lobos' best player.
Sanchez said she probably will move Halasz back into the starting lineup, especially since sophomore guard Antiesha Brown continues to struggle with a hamstring injury.
"I'm proud of that kid, because now she's getting confident," Sanchez said.
"Now she's not thinking about the knee, and she's just going. And that's what I like to see."
Losing her starting job, Halasz said after Saturday's game, did not discourage her.
"It's good to start," she said, "But ... I know I'm gonna play. As long as coach has confidence in me, I'm gonna put confidence in myself.
"It's just more determination, and playing hard and having fun. The biggest key, I keep telling myself, is just have fun with the game."
Likely, she'll never be an Abby Garchek.
Being the best Sara Halasz she can be would be plenty good enough.
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