The first time a defender yelled, “Shooter!” when Christina Salvatore had the ball, it caught the budding basketball star by surprise.
It happened during a middle school game in Anaheim, Calif. Salvatore has never shed the label.
“It was weird, in a way, the way they would play me,” said Salvatore, a 5-foot-11 freshman guard/wing at the University of Idaho.
Salvatore grew up thinking that soccer and softball were her best sports. Her introduction to basketball came in sixth grade, on the club team OC (Orange County) Rhythm, founded by Carlos Ballestero, the father of Vandals teammate Connie.
Salvatore considered herself a subpar player in her early attempts at basketball, except for one thing.
“I could always shoot,” Salvatore said. “I always had a natural shot.”
The rest of her skills came around while competing with OC Rhythm and Canyon High School.
Salvatore is well ahead of pace to break Idaho’s record for 3-pointers in a season. Susan Woolf set the mark with 76 during the 1998-99 season.
Salvatore has 53 3-pointers in 18 games this season, including two games in which she had six. In one of those games, against Utah State, Idaho set a team record with 15 3-pointers.
Salvatore’s 11.3 ppg ranks second on the team. She leads all Western Athletic Conference players in 3-pointers per conference game (3.29) and is the WAC’s leading freshman scorer.
But last year, as a senior in high school, Salvatore grew weary of all the 3-point talk.
“I don’t want to just be labeled as a 3-point shooter,” she said. “It’s a compliment, but I want people to know what else I can do.”
“She has the skill and potential to be a great all-around player,” Idaho coach Jon Newlee said. … “She’s come a long way, believe me, since September, working on her all-around game.
Salvatore is part of a youth movement at Idaho, where there are no seniors among the top six scorers. Three Vandals with multiple starts, Salvatore, Ballestero and Krissy Karr, are from the Anaheim area.
“I’m from Southern California, too, so I can relate to them and I think they can relate to me,” Newlee said.
Notes: Senior Carly Noyes (Moses Lake) became Washington State’s all-time blocks leader last week during a Pac-12 loss at Washington. Noyes, who has 150 blocks, passed the 147 of Holly Zapel (1982-85). Noyes is also on pace to break Katie Appleton’s (2005-09) record of 110 career starts. Noyes has 105. … Eastern Washington sophomore forward Melissa Williams (Camas, Wash.) sprained the MCL in her left knee during the final 6 minutes of a Jan. 12 game against Sacramento State. Williams had a breakout weekend before the injury, with double-doubles against Northern Arizona and Sacramento State. Williams could return as early as Saturday’s home game against Southern Utah. Eastern’s Laura Hughes, who suffered a concussion against Sacramento State, returned Saturday to score 11 points in 16 minutes against Northern Colorado.