Andrea Stinson is the girl with the jericurl in the middle of her forehead. When she is good, she is very, very good. But when she is bad—and in the largely male pickup basketball precincts that Stinson frequents, we're talking "bad" in the Michael Jackson, not the Mother Goose, sense—she can be torrid.
Stinson is a 5'10" junior guard at North Carolina State, which has recently been bad in the NCAA sense. In October, an internal investigation at State revealed abuses of academic rules in order to keep men's basketball players eligible; last week the NCAA hit the men's team with a two-year probation because players were selling their game tickets and sneakers. Thus, if N.C. State is to win a national title this season, Stinson and the ninth-ranked women will have to do it. Through Sunday, the team was 6-1, and Stinson was averaging 28.8 points a game, more than a point a minute, which isn't that hard when two out of every three shots you put up go in. And if they handed out style points for the degree of difficulty on some of those attempts, Stinson would be scoring thirtysomething.
In the open court, she's a sure thing. Witness the high-stepping, spin-dribble move Stinson put on an Indiana State defender who tried to angle in on her on a fast break in a game on Nov. 24. "She didn't even score that time," says teammate Krista Kilburn. "She dished it. It was sweet."
If the break isn't there, Stinson dips into her quiver of moves, most of which begin with a shoulder fake and a first step that's over in a trice. "I wish I had another way to compare it, but you have to liken her speed and quickness to a man's," says State's coach, Kay Yow. "When guys play her, they're always taken aback by it."
Certainly a few were stunned last Saturday at Reynolds Coliseum, where the Pack was supposed to play Miami of Ohio. But the Redskins only made it as far as Berea, Ky., before ice and snow halted their bus. So Yow put out an All Points Bulletin for male pickup players, who mustered for an exhibition game. Although the men won 73-68, none broke 20, while Stinson schooled her defenders for her usual 34 points in 34 minutes.
Stinson grew up in Cornelius, N.C., a town just north of Charlotte. Her father died when she was three, and her mother, Corliss, raised Andrea and two brothers on a shoestring budget. Basketball was like an extra parent, always there and able to make Andrea feel good about herself. "I could have gone the other route, had a baby or done drugs," she says. "But my mother hung in there, and I always tried not to give her any trouble."
In junior high, Stinson became mesmerized by the ACC stars she saw on television, and her game today is a hybrid of those styles. None is more evident than Michael Jordan's. She wears her sweatband up her forearm, just like Michael, and she maintains a Jordanesque serenity despite double-and triple-teaming. "Hey, Miss Jordan, what's up?" is how N.C. State's male athletes greet her around campus. Why, when she met Michael himself last summer at a basketball camp in Greensboro, Jordan—who had heard of her exploits—asked her to work at his camp.
Even Stinson's weaknesses—a propensity to roam irresponsibly on defense and an uneven outside shot—are reminiscent of the collegiate Jordan's. "She needs to work on her shot," says Yow. "But if we're in the last few seconds of a game, it's incredible how many go down."
Yow would like her star to make the same transition Jordan has made, from a big scorer to a triple-double threat. (The best example of why: Stinson's top scoring performance this season, a 50-point outburst, came in State's only loss, a 112-111 overtime defeat at Providence.) And Yow wishes that Stinson, a speech communications major, would become a more disciplined student. Stinson arrived in Raleigh as a Prop 48 case, and the time away from the team's practices turned out to be good for her game. She got to spend a year honing her skills against the men over at the Carmichael Gymnasium on the State campus. Says Wolfpack backcourt star Rodney Monroe, "I'd swap her some of my shooting ability if she'd give me some of her driving ability."
Even as Stinson occasionally appears to snorkel academically, she still has her moments. As a topic for a persuasive speech in professor Sandra Stallings' public-speaking course, Stinson recently took a shot at something that has bedeviled women's basketball for years: talking people into coming to the games.
To her classmates she touted Yow, who won a gold medal with the 1988 Olympic team. She sold the women's game itself as something "totally different, two steps above what you might remember from high school." And she mentioned a few of the talents on her team, such as forward Kerri Hobbs and her leaping ability, and the leadership of point guard Nicole Lehmann, daughter of former ABA sharpshooter George Lehmann. And was there anybody else whom she mentioned?
"Yeah, I did talk about myself," Stinson confesses.
Her closing argument clinched her pitch. "If they came and didn't like it, I said I'd give them their money back," she says.
Virtually the entire speech class turned out for the Wolfpack's 90-47 defeat of Western Carolina on Nov. 29, in which the strong persuader herself went for 25. Stinson got a B for the speech and says, "I didn't have to give anyone any money back, either."