Talent flight.

Eventually, it had to happen in women's basketball too.

With gender-equity pressures in recent years moving women's basketball coaching salaries and program funding up toward men's levels, it was only a matter of time before UCLA's and USC's programs would be playing against Southland-developed players with teams from other parts of the country.

At the NCAA West Regional women's tournament beginning at UCLA on Thursday, Vanderbilt, Purdue, North Carolina and Stanford all will suit up key players who chose to leave the Southland to play college basketball.

On the men's side, when UCLA's John Wooden and USC's Forrest Twogood were building strong programs in the 1950s and 1960s, it was rare for a top Southland high school prospect to elude the clutches of those two.

On Bob Boyd's 1971 24-2 USC team, for example, 12 of the 15 players were Southern Californians. On Twogood's 21-8 team in 1961, every player was from a Southland high school.

Wooden's UCLA teams were made up primarily of Southland players years before he recruited Lew Alcindor--now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar--from New York City.

Thursday night, when Vanderbilt (26-6) plays Purdue (21-7) in the 6 p.m. game and Stanford (26-2) meets North Carolina (28-4) in the second game, it may at times look like a Southern California prep alumni all-star game. Consider:

--Vanderbilt's Michelle Palmisano was one of the nation's top recruits at Thousand Oaks High. She chose UCLA and played there as a freshman, starting 26 games. But when UCLA changed coaches in 1993, she transferred to Vanderbilt.

--Purdue's Nicole Erickson was the California player of the year in her division as a point guard at Brea Olinda High last year. She started 13 games for Purdue this season and shot 40% from three-point range.

--North Carolina's Marion Jones, easily the fastest player in women's college basketball, was another top recruit at Thousand Oaks High, where she had won nine state track and field championships in the 100, 200 and long jump.

--Stanford's Olympia Scott, from St. Bernard High in Los Angeles, started 19 games this year, shot 47% and averaged 6.5 points a game on probably the NCAA tournament's deepest team.

Palmisano, the fourth-ranking California prep scorer, grew up the youngest in a family of seven children, all of whom played basketball. Her grandfather, Joe Palmisano, was a catcher for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1931.

When Billie Moore resigned as UCLA's coach in 1993 and was replaced by Kathy Olivier, Palmisano looked elsewhere.

"It seemed like UCLA was going to go through a rebuilding period under a new coach, and one of my goals was to play for a national championship team," she said.

"I looked at the Southeast Conference because it's so tough, and I decided I wanted to play where I'd find the toughest competition."

Joe and Mary Jean Palmisano, Michelle's parents, leased a condominium in Nashville and stay there often during basketball season.

Palmisano, who has an older sister playing pro basketball in Italy, is as ambitious academically as she is athletically. She went to UCLA as an engineering major, nearly chose premed at Vanderbilt but finally decided on biomedical engineering. She wants to design surgical instruments.

Erickson, who averaged 5.2 points this season, was a four-year all-state player at Brea Olinda, and once made 11 three-point shots in a game. She says she'd like to win "at least a couple" of national championships at Purdue.

Stanford has nine states represented on its roster, including two Southland players--Scott, and Vanessa Nygaard of Carlsbad.

Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer says Scott, at 6 feet, is big and strong enough to play the post as well as quick enough to defend against point guards.

Nygaard, who averaged 3.4 points in 26 games, is expected to become Stanford's defensive enforcer. VanDerveer calls her Stanford's most intense player.

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