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UTAH: UTES OWE THEIR SUCCESS TO LOW-PROFILE KING-NOEL AS MUCH AS ANYBODY.

SHARE UTAH: UTES OWE THEIR SUCCESS TO LOW-PROFILE KING-NOEL AS MUCH AS ANYBODY.

Finally after all these years, she's getting some much-deserved recognition. On Monday Utah senior forward Hilary King-Noel was named to the all-WAC Mountain Division second team as well as the all-defensive team.

It's no surprise to folks who follow Utah women's basketball. They've known about the 6-foot senior from Layton for some time now. They know she is a big reason for the Utes' gaudy 22-4 record going into their opening game in the Western Athletic Conference tournament Wednesday against BYU (7 p.m. MST)."Her impact goes well beyond what people understand or give her credit for," says Utah coach Elaine Elliott. "She means more to the team than any low-profile player I've ever had here."

It doesn't bother King-Noel that she was overshadowed by WAC MVP Amber McEwen last year and Julie Krommenhoek, who was named WAC Mountain Division MVP Monday, for the past three years or at times by teammates Sara Works, Alli Bills or Lisa Thueson.

"Winning is the main thing," she says. "It's great to be on top."

And the Utes have been on top for most of the past three years with records of 23-7 and 21-8 in addition to this year's 22-4 mark.

King-Noel is second on the team in scoring this year at 11.3 points per game and tops in rebounding at 7.8. She is also the top shooter among the starters at 48 percent, second in blocked shots and third in steals.

"I'm glad she's gotten the numbers this year, but she still does all the dirty stuff like defense and rebounding," says Elliott. "She's a blue collar-type player who isn't flashy, but gets the job done. Her competitiveness, commitment and tenaciousness can't be measured."

King-Noel says besides winning, she's tried to be a leader to a team filled with underclassmen. On the court, her main focus this year has been on rebounding, especially with the 6-foot-4 McEwen gone.

"That's what I was hoping to do," she says. "I've really concentrated on rebounding and figured my teammates would take care of the scoring."

King-Noel, who was married to McKay Noel after her freshman year, didn't even take up basketball until the eighth grade. Her father had been a player, but didn't push it on her, allowing her to pursue things like ballet, piano and soccer.

With height and good coordination, she was an immediate hit as a basketball player and led her team to an impressive 42-4 record at Layton High where she was all-state for two years. But she feels she's done most of her growing as a player at Utah under Elliott.

Now after leading the Utes to their most successful regular season in 20 years, King-Noel would like to help the Utes to even greater heights in the postseason. The Utes have never won an NCAA game, losing in seven previous tries.

"Our goal is to win the WAC tournament and win in the NCAAs," she said. "We've been there two years now and we know what has to be done."

Don't be surprised if the Utes win a game or two in the NCAAs with King-Noel leading the way.