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Refs get The Call, more calls

They are making history, but Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner are finding it hard to believe the attention surrounding them these days.

Kantner and Palmer were added to the NBA's referee staff this week, making them the first women officials in an all-male U.S. major league.

During a conference call Wednesday night, their first public response to the NBA's announcement, the veteran college officials expressed genuine surprise at the amount of publicity they've received, including a segment on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.

"I'm really stunned by the response we're getting," Kantner, 37, said. "We just followed a path that was laid out for us."

Because they officiated preseason NBA games, Kantner and Palmer had a chance to get a feel for what the real thing will be like.

It seems most people want to know how they will respond when confronted by the likes of Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman.

"We'll treat them just like any other player," Palmer said. "Confrontation is part of being a referee. If they cross a line they're not supposed to, they'll get a technical foul just like any other player."

The women started working summer league games for the NBA three years ago. Kantner also has officiated women's college games and was supervisor of officials in the WNBA. Palmer, 33, is a veteran of the college game and also officiated in the WNBA.

Being selected to the 58-member officiating crew may be a groundbreaking event, but the women will have to prove themselves on the court.

During the conference call, the question women in non-traditional occupations often are confronted with reared its ugly head: What about suggestions Kantner and Palmer were chosen over more qualified candidates (translation: men), specifically several in the CBA?

"That is some people's opinion, which they are entitled to," Palmer said. "Obviously the NBA thinks we are qualified or they wouldn't have selected us."

MAKING HER MARK: Former Florida All-American DeLisha Milton is quickly making a name for herself in the ABL. Milton, a rookie with the Portland Power, received high praise from teammate Natalie Williams this week.

Williams, who has helped lead the Power to a 6-1 start, said Milton and rookie Elaine Powell have made a tremendous difference on the team.

"We call DeLisha the Tasmanian Devil because she is just so quick," Williams said. "Sometimes she is just too quick for her own good and she needs to slow down. But she's extremely athletic, and she's going to be hard for a lot of people to deal with.

"She brings a nice addition to the team because she has a 6-7 wingspan, even though she's just 6-2. She definitely helps my game because teams can't just key in on me."

Williams, averaging 23.3 points and 13 rebounds, was the ABL Player of the Week. She is second in the league in scoring and third in rebounding and steals.

The Power is off to a good start after suffering through a miserable season last year, when it didn't get its fifth win until Dec. 9.

HUSKY WOES: Things are tough for the University of Connecticut, and the season doesn't start for two weeks. Having lost Shea Ralph for the season because of a torn ligament in her right knee, the Huskies have to play without star senior Nykesha Sales, who has mononucleosis. Sales, the team's top returning scorer (16.4 ppg), is out indefinitely. Team physicians say she could resume light workouts this month.

UConn opens Nov. 14 in the National Invitational Tournament.

STAYING PUT: Philadelphia Rage star Adrienne Goodson has agreed to a three-year contract extension that will keep her in the ABL through 2000. Terms have not been released.