By Ben Ford
INDIANAPOLIS -- Shanna Zolman proved herself capable of many seemingly superhuman feats during her Wawasee High School basketball career, but Saturday's effort topped them all.
Zolman hoisted Wawasee's gymnasium, the "Hardwood Teepee," put it on her shoulders, transported it from the school's Syracuse campus to downtown Indianapolis, stretched it into the proportions of an NBA arena and carefully disguised it as Conseco Fieldhouse.
The marquee said "Notre Dame vs. Tennessee," but it was really the Shanna show, just as it had been for the last four years at Wawasee.
Everything was the same as it was during Zolman's high school days: The legions of screaming fans in the stands. Her father watching her from courtside. Heck, even the Wawasee High band was there.
"I don't know if anybody's left in town," said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. "Having been there a number of times, I think it's probably pretty empty there today. It's great to see how much people appreciate Shanna and Coach (Kem) Zolman, her father.
"At one time, I said we should move (Tennessee's) Thompson-Boling (Arena) up here to Indiana."
Zolman, a freshman at Tennessee, was the second player off the Lady Vols' bench Saturday, entering the game at the 12:04 mark to screams of delight from the busloads of "Z" fans who made the trip to Indy. To put it in perspective, the crowd barely stirred when Tennessee's Shyra Ely, who attended nearby Ben Davis High, checked into the contest.
Tennessee beat Notre Dame 77-61. No one who came from Syracuse or anywhere near there noticed. Their eyes were focused solely on No. 5.
"They kept me up to date as to how many buses they got and how many people made the trip," Zolman said. "I was really impressed to see them and how many people showed up to support me. It was nice."
Zolman, last season's Miss Basketball in Indiana and the state's all-time leading scorer, tallied just five points against the Irish, a little more than one-sixth her high school average, but still managed to electrify her fans.
For her first basket, she drove the lane, executed a pass-fake that left Notre Dame's Courtney LaVere frozen in her tracks and laid it in. She added a 3-pointer in five attempts during the second half.
But Zolman managed to make more of an impact than her statistics would suggest. During her time in the game during the first half, Tennessee increased its lead by 12 points and her smooth touch passes and screens set up several of her teammates for scores.
"I thought Shanna did a lot of good things," Summitt said. "Obviously, she wants to improve because she's such a perfectionist about her game."
Zolman, who has played in all 11 Tennessee games this season, is averaging 7.3 points, pretty good for a freshman in one of the nation's premier programs. But she realizes she has a ways to go to be a successful player in college, where no one cares how many points you scored in high school.
"It's a big learning experience," said Zolman, who believes her defense is the most improved aspect of her game. "There's so many things to learn and so many different things and parts of the game that you can learn. I'm looking forward to the next few years, to be able to go through that.
"Not a lot of people talk about the high school stuff, because just about everyone has accomplished the same things. That's what Tennessee is, though -- the best high school players."
Zolman wore her signature green sweatband around her arm -- underneath a white one "so it's not so blatant," she said -- and traded in her green mouthguard for an orange-and-white one, but still displayed the flawless shooting form that brought the college coaches to sleepy Syracuse in the first place.
Her father, who had a front-row seat at Conseco, sported an orange polo shirt instead of the green one he wears while coaching the Warriors and looked a lot more at ease than he does when making the rounds in the Northern Lakes Conference.
Another person who watched Zolman with more than a casual interest Saturday was Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, who heavily recruited her. Zolman said it was difficult to play against Notre Dame because of her friendship with the Irish coaching staff.
"I think she'd be in a different place if she came here," McGraw said after the game. "I think we kind of needed her more. I think she would have made a bigger impact (at Notre Dame) because she could have had more of a chance."
Contact Ben Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org.