Precarious positions

Updated: November 11, 2003, 11:14 AM ET
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

Colorado's Tera Bjorklund walked into Big 12 media day in Dallas this past week and I thought, "Hooray! Thank goodness for Tera Bjorklund.''

Why? Because I'm sure what position she plays. She's a center.

She's not "a point guard trapped in a post body.'' She's not "really a 5'' in a 4 body. She's not "really a 4'' in a 5 body. She's not having out-of-body experiences. (At least I don't think so ... although in the Rockies you can never rule out that possibility.)

She's not the center who "just wants to shoot 3-pointers'' or the center who "actually doesn't play center a lot of times'' or the "center by default.''

Bjorklund's not a wing/slasher type who also posts up, often brings the ball up the court, sets up her teammates and shoots the 3 very well. That's Connecticut's Diana Taurasi, whom Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale describes as a "1234.''

Tera Bjorklund
AP PhotoNo mystery here: Colorado senior Tera Bjorklund is a center. And that's that.
Bjorklund is a center. A "5,'' and that's that.

People throw her the ball close to the basket, and she puts it in the majority of the time. Defining her is easy. But with so many players, it's anything but.

Here at ESPN.com each year, we try to pick the top five players at each position. Trouble comes -- and it always does -- when we know somebody is a top-five "something'' but we're not sure where to put her. That's in part because some players really don't have a day-in-day-out defined position.

Maybe it's because of their team's offensive setups; some programs, for instance, don't even call players centers or forwards, just "posts.''

Or it's because of a lack/surplus of personnel in one area. Or because the player really is a tweener and switches during games based on who else is on the floor with her.

Or it's some combination of all of that. The result is, it's hard to place someone in one category when she fits more than one -- or doesn't seem to fit any. We end up saying, "All right, what is she?''

This isn't a "bad'' thing; versatility and flexibility are positives. Unless you're trying to do specific, boxy little lists like we are. And even the "experts'' have some trouble with this.

For the fun of it, I asked several Big 12 coaches to, off the top of their heads, name the top five point guards in the nation. And the first question back was, "Not counting Taurasi as a point guard, right?''

Few teams' starting fives seem so easily pegged as, for instance, national-champion Notre Dame in 2001. Each starting position was filled by a person who pretty much exactly fit its standard description: center Ruth Riley, power forward Kelley Siemon, small forward Ericka Haney, shooting guard Alicia Ratay and point guard Niele Ivey.

But then there was the runner-up team that year, Purdue, which had a Taurasi-like, do-everything player in 6-foot-1 Katie Douglas. Who once described herself as a guard-forward/forward-guard/big shooting guard/small power forward/wing-type/slasher or "whatever it is that I am.''

So we're CERTAIN that fans will have no quarrels with our top-five picks (cough, cough) or where players are "put'' ... or at least not big-enough quarrels to conjure ancient Egyptian curses and cast them upon us. But if anyone does, just remember ...

Sometimes even the player herself doesn't know for sure what she is.

Mechelle Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. She can be reached at mvoepel@kcstar.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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