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1,000 point-stars: 3 Utes reached 1,000-point plateau on Utah women's basketball team this season

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 8 2013 6:55 p.m. MST

University of Utah's Michelle Plouffe, Iwalani Rodrigues, and Taryn Wicijowski, left to right, are members of the 1,000-point club. Photo taken at the Huntsman Center on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — When a college basketball player reaches 1,000 career points, it is a special accomplishment. When three players on the same team hit that mark at the same time, it is truly remarkable.

The Utah women’s basketball team experienced that rare feat this season. It's the first time since 1991-92 that three Ute women have scored 1,000 career points on the same team.

“I don’t think I have ever coached a team that had three kids with 1,000 points at once,” said Utah coach Anthony Levrets, who has coached men’s and women’s college basketball for 16 years. “It is a really special thing in college athletics. It’s a pretty exclusive club.”

Senior guard Iwalani Rodrigues has accumulated 1,146 points during her time at Utah, while junior forwards Taryn Wicijowski and Michelle Plouffe have totaled 1,178 and 1,137 points, respectively. All three players hit the milestone within 10 days of each other at the beginning of the current season, allowing Wicijowski and Plouffe nearly two full seasons to add to their totals.

“Who knows where they can get to?” Levrets said. “Having three players like that makes it pretty fun.”

While the accomplishment is a nice feather in the individual caps of Rodrigues, Wicijowski and Plouffe, what it means for the on-court success of the team as a whole is particularly pleasing for Levrets. The Utes (9-4, 0-2) are three games into their Pac-12 schedule. The league includes four top-25 teams, and despite coming up short, the Utes held their own against then-No. 7 California and then-No. 4 Stanford.

“It’s cool for them, but it’s great for us,” Levrets said. “They all (score) in different ways; they play all over the floor and all of them can play inside and outside. We can run different things to get each one of them shots.”

Change in scenery

A native of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, Rodrigues shined as a prep athlete. She chose to attend Utah, trading the island life for new experiences.

“My grades weren’t all that good, so I didn’t have many options,” Rodrigues said. “But I enjoyed the (Utah) coaching staff and the girls on my visit. I have spent five years here. I enjoyed it.”

Rodrigues redshirted her freshman year to focus on her academics and has since flourished — both in the classroom and on the court. Rodrigues graduated in December with a degree in Speech Communications.

“Education was obviously not at the top of her priority list before, and she is walking out of here with a degree from a great institution, which is a far bigger success than the 1,000 points for her,” Levrets said. “To see her growth on and off the floor, in all facets, has been incredible to watch.”

Rodrigues, a 5-foot-9 shooting guard, reached 1,000 points with a 13-point outing against Denver in the Utes’ season-opener. In 2011, she set the school record for 3-pointers in a season with 110, and she is averaging 12.2 points per game this season.

Overcoming obstacles

Wicijowski is from Regina, Saskatchewan, and attended the National Elite Development Academy. She has ties to the Canadian National Team and also grew up playing hockey. She caught the attention of Utah coaches during a basketball tournament in Arizona.

“We got to see her play and five minutes was all I needed,” Levrets said. “We wanted her.”

Wicijowski is a redshirt junior who has also excelled both on and off the court. In a freak accident at the start of her sophomore year, she tore her ACL and spent the season on the sideline rehabilitating and studying.

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