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Pointer sees it all clearly now Rutgers senior feels blessed after BB eye injury
( USA Today ) Kelly Whiteside; 11-10-2000


PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- The expression, ''Life can change in a blink of an eye,'' is more than just a cliche for Rutgers senior guard Tasha Pointer. It's a life lesson as real as the small scar above her left eye, as real as the BB once lodged there, the BB that now sits in a plastic cup on her desk as a daily reminder.

On July 11, Pointer had just finished playing basketball on her usual court, a block and a half from her home on the west side of Chicago. She and a friend were walking back from the playground that night when she saw three boys shooting a BB gun at a group of girls walking ahead of them.

''I'm used to the inner city, I know that lifestyle, I know the do' s and the don'ts, but at that time, I forgot the rules,'' says Pointer, an All-America candidate for the No. 7 Scarlet Knights.

''I tried to talk them out of shooting. You can't do that. If someone' s going crazy, you don't reason. When I saw them aim the gun, I should have run. Before I knew it, the BB was coming at me.''

Pointer blinked and the BB entered through her eyelid, hit her eyeball and lodged against it. If it had penetrated her eyeball, Pointer would have lost her vision.

''I thought, 'Am I dead? Will I die?' '' Pointer says while sitting courtside at the Rutgers Athletic Center recently. ''Then, the next thing I thought was, 'Will I be able to see?' Then, 'My career. How will this affect basketball?' ''

When doctors pried her left eye open, all she could see was white light. For about a week she wasn't able to see. The BB remained lodged for 2 1/2 months before doctors were able to remove it.

On Oct. 14, the opening day of practice, Pointer returned to the court for the first time. Though she has swelling and occasional blood in her eye, her vision is improving. She will wear protective goggles and be ready to start in the Scarlet Knights' season opener against Cal on Nov. 17.

Co-captain for three years, the aptly named Pointer has started at point since the first game of her freshman year. Generously listed at 5-6, her size doesn't matter. Each season, she has taken her Scarlet Knights to greater heights. In '98, RU went to the Sweet 16; in '99, the Elite Eight; and in 2000, the Final Four.

''We go as Tasha goes,'' Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer says. '' She's a winner.''

Last season, Pointer was one of 10 finalists for the Nancy Lieberman- Cline award as the nation's top point guard. She is a preseason candidate for Naismith Player of the Year.

''She's a gift. A true point guard, which you don't find much anymore, who can get the ball to the right people, penetrate and finish,'' Miami (Fla.) coach Ferne Labati says. ''She can go to the next level and make an impact.''

As a freshman, there wasn't a shot that she didn't like. The past two years, however, her role evolved and she became the consummate point guard, getting everyone involved. On a team known for defense, Pointer will be expected to shoot more this season, because RU's leading scorer, Shawnetta Stewart, has graduated.

''My role will be the same, to provide great leadership. But now I have to look for my shot and take it if I'm open instead of passing it up as I did the past two years,'' Pointer says.

She will expand her game, and broaden her definition of ''court vision, '' a term that holds new meaning.

''I know I'm blessed. If I didn't blink, I would be blind,'' she says. ''I'm grateful that I can see, laugh, talk and cry with my teammates. I was able to go back to the game I love.''

Kelly Whiteside, Pointer sees it all clearly now Rutgers senior feels blessed after BB eye injury. , USA Today, 11-10-2000, pp 11F.