Even the hard-core basketball purist and male chauvinist had to take a second look at Ginger Rouse last year. The two-time former All-Met and Washington Post Player of the Year from Robinson High School was a sight to behold with her head fake, cross-over dribble and soft, 18-foot jump shot.
If Rouse wasn't the finest girl player to emerge from the Washington area since basketball became a big sport in the girl's circles, she was at least the No. 1 sharpshooter.
Her 24- and 26-point averages in her junior and senior years carried Robinson to outstanding seasons, culminating in the Virginia state unclassified title last year.
In a dazzling performance in the Northern Regional championship game, she outdueled another All-Met, Betsy Bailey of Marshall. Rouse outscored Bailey, 23-16, and her 16-foot jumper with two seconds left sent the game into overtime. She scored five of the Rams' seven points in the extra session as Robinson won, 49-46.
The college offers came and Rouse selected North Carolina State over the likes of Maryland, Alabama and Delta State, the three-time defending National AIAW champion.
"I fell in love with Coach (Kay) Yow and the other girls," said Rouse."I saw them play Virginia last year and I was impressed with them. I saw a lot of potential out there and the girls weren't phony."
As expected, Rouse was an instant starter for the Wolfpack. But suddenly she was not enjoying the acclaim that had made her a legend in Fairfax County.
"In high school, I was always being set up for the shots. At State, I had to take a new role," said Rouse. "At first, I didn't even feel a part of the offense. But after I adjusted to my teammates, everything began to work out and I'm having a good time now."
Playing for a team that's ranked No. 2 in the country has to help. Being surrounded by other fine players, such as 6-foot-2 sophomore Genia Beasley and another highly recruited freshman. Trudi Lacey, can make her basketball life easier, too.
Teamed in the backcourt with Lacey, a 5-10 power guard from Clifton Forge, Va., Rouse has averaged just over eight points per game.
"It doesn't bother me a bit.I don't score as much. I only shoot about 10 times a game. The coach just told me to put up a few more shots and that's nice," said Rouse, with a laugh. "I can't believe I have learned so much about the game. Every day I pick up something else. All of my teammates are unselfish and everybody is involved in the game. I still have a lot of room for improvement."
As far as Yow is concerned, Rouse has come along fine.
"She's done everything we've asked of her. She was in a new role, alternating at the point with Trudi, and the transformation was a little rough."
A sign of Rouse's maturity came in the State-Maryland game two weeks ago in Raleigh. Once again, Rouse would be paired against her friend and high school adversary, Bailey, the leading scorer for the seventh-ranked Terps.
Bailey made a phenomenal 12 of 13 shots, many with Rouse checking her, and finished with 26 points.Rouse scored only six points but took greater satisfaction in watching Beasley score 30 to lead the Wolfpack to an easy, 90-78, triumph.
"I wasn't thinking about outplaying Betsy," said Rouse. "I just wanted to do what I could to help us win the game."
Rouse played an exceptionally strong floor game in State's 89-58 victory over North Carolina in Friday night's semifinal of the Atlantic Coast Conference women's tournament at University Hall. She didn't take her coach's advice, however, taking only eight shots and finishing with six points. But the poised Rouse did have six rebounds, four assists and two steals in 33 minutes.
With a 55 percent mark, she is one of the top three field-goal shooters in the Division I schools on the East Coast. She is second on her team in assists (40) and steals (32).
"The only goal I set was starting. Now I want to be a leader out there and run the team," said Rouse.
Her top efforts this season came against nationally ranked Wayland Baptists and UCLA. Rouse scored 15 points, had six assists and several steals in State's 98-86 stunning of the Flying Queens. Against UCLA, Rouse scored 12 points and had seven assists in the Wolfpack's 91-81 triumph.
"I had good defensive games against both of them.I was glad of that," said Rouse.
Rouse will be the first to admit the college game is a far cry from the way basketball is played in high school.
"It's rougher and the refs let you play," she said. "And college teams don't quit like high school teams do. You can get way ahead and they keep coming at you."
Fortunately, that's the way it has been for Rouse and her talented teammates. State has won 16 games by 16 or more points. But such success has not stopped Coach Yow from holding pregame practices.
"I had never head of such a thing. But Coach Yow is such a stickler for fine detail.She breaks everything down for you," added Rouse, "really breaks it down."
The Wolfpack worked out for almost two hours before the North Carolina game and Rouse. Lacey and the other guards practiced getting the ball in bounds against a press nearly 45 minutes. The practice paid off as the team had little trouble getting the ball in bounds and up court against the Carolina press.
"The only thing women's basketball needs is 15 more Kay Yows," said Rouse. "She's definitely helped me."