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140 players have Starzz in their eyes

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Hilary King-Noel, wearing Utah Starzz jersey No. 103, was grateful for a chance. She wasn't holding her breath as far as making the cut, but she was glad to be there nonetheless.

King-Noel, who recently helped the University of Utah to its best-ever showing in the NCAA women's basketball tournament, was one of 140 women trying out for the Utah Starzz Thursday and Friday at Salt Lake Community College."I have a goal to make the team," said King-Noel, "but I'm not basing my life plans on it. It would be great to be part of the inaugural season of the WNBA, but if things don't work out for me, I wish them all the best and hope the league succeeds."

The players trying out have solid credentials. In order to participate they had to have played and completed their eligibility from a four-year school or played at least two seasons in another professional league.

But all 140 face long odds. Only seven will be invited back to training camp. Since the Starzz already have eight spots filled, just two will likely be on the 10-member active roster when the WNBA season begins June 21. Two others will make the team as "developmental players" but won't suit up for games.

"There is a really good pool of talent here," said Starzz coach Denise Taylor. "We'll be able to pick some good players."

Each player was randomly assigned to a team and participated in an equal number of games during the two-day tryout in order to make sure all would get a chance to be seen. Taylor was joined by assistant coach Greg Williams, Jazz vice president Scott Layden and Jazz assistant coach Richard Smith in evaluating the talent.

Since the Starzz already have four guards on their roster of eight, forwards and centers will have the best chance of sticking with the team.

"We're looking for some small forwards and, as always, we're looking for big people," said Taylor. "You always want height, because that's something you can't teach."

When tryouts are completed tonight at 7, the Starzz brain trust will then use the weekend to settle on which seven players will be asked back for training camp. They don't expect to make an announcement until Monday.

"We're certainly pleased with the turnout and the skill levels of players," said Williams. "It will be hard to make cuts because there are so many good players here, but you'd rather have it that way than to not have enough talent to choose from."

While many of the players, should they not make the cut with the Starzz, will continue to look for places to play professionally, King-Noel won't be one of them.

"If I don't make it, I'll just get a normal life and get a job," she said. "I'll be ready to move on."