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JUST 1 DUNK COULD MAKE BYU’S DIMOND FAMOUS

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BYU CENTER Debbie Dimond admits she's thought of dunking in a game. Her teammates encourage her regularly, but so far she hasn't even tried. In fact, she seems slightly embarrassed by such talk.

The 6-foot-3 Dimond's favorite play is blocking a shot. But she knows full well what dunking in a game would mean: her face on the television highlights for a week and her name in every daily paper in the country. Although Dimond has played 92 college basketball games, one dunk would bring her more fame than all others combined. Because dunking has become to women's basketball what the four-minute mile was to track."If I did dunk," she says cautiously, "it wouldn't be for the publicity. A lot of people on the team want me to. They tell me even if I got hung up (on the rim) it wouldn't matter."

In a game still struggling for publicity, the dunk shot has become a sort of Holy Grail. Cheryl Miller of USC became the first woman to dunk in a college game in the early 80s. West Virginia's Georgeann Wells dunked twice in 1984. Oddly enough, a decade raced by without anyone else accomplishing the feat until last week when North Carolina's Charlotte Smith dunked against North Carolina A&T.

Actually, dunk isn't quite the word for Smith's shot. It was more of an exaggerated layup. She got the ball on the breakaway and pushed it over the rim with 17 seconds left in the game. In the All-Star Weekend slam-dunk competition it would have rated a 2.

"Call it a semi," said North Carolina A&T coach Tim Abney. "Or a fraction thereof."

Nevertheless, it was a counter. Teammates mobbed her. News of the dunk far superseded news of the game. She was on everyone's Plays of the Week. Millions who wouldn't know Charlotte Smith from Charlotte's Web were suddenly taking note.

"Because of one play," says Dimond. "It's amazing what one thing can do for a person."

The possibility of Dimond dunking in a game has been around for some time. At Bingham High she was a three-sport, All-America sensation. She has dunked several times in practice but never attempted it in a game.

"It would be a situation call," she adds.

Were Dimond to dunk in public, it would be a story hard to miss. Not only does she have the game, she also has the name. When she was in high school, recruiters from the 80 or so colleges that wanted her were constantly telling her how good her name sounded. "They'd tell me it has a ring to it," she says.

Who wouldn't want to tell the administration they had just signed a Dimond in the rough?

Though her father played basketball at Westminster College, her family isn't a museum of athletes. Her 12-year-old brother plays Junior Jazz basketball and her older and younger sisters play pickup ball. "Nothing really serious," she says.

For three seasons, Dimond has been a (groan) gem of a player for the Cougars. She shot 58 percent as a freshman, averaging 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds a game and was named WAC Freshman of the Year. The following year she was honorable mention all-America. Last year she was an all-WAC first-team selection and her scoring average rose to 15.6. This year she leads the Cougars in rebounding (8.0) and scoring (19.4) and is second in WAC scoring and fourth in rebounding.

Though the Cougars only averaged about 500 fans a game last year, that could pick up considerably, were Dimond to executed a slam-dunk anytime soon. "I wouldn't dunk just for the publicity," she adds. "It would be for my teammates and to get everyone pumped up."

Dimond's basketball eligibility runs out this year. And with it will go her chance at history. But there's still time to dream. And in the dream, she has the ball on the breakaway and goes up with one hand, bringing it down with a thud. Soon to follow is the crowd roar. And somewhere in there, you have to believe there would be a voice-over with a sportscaster shouting, "Dimond is forever! Film at 11!"