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Carla Houser's athletic skills are no act

April 13, 2001

Carla Houser's athletic skills are no act



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY

andreabh@herald-mail.com

Carla Houser took a shot at professional basketball and found an acting gig and coaching career on the rebound.

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Houser, a 1993 graduate of Williamsport High School, earned a bachelor's degree from UCLA while playing power forward on the California school's Division 1 women's basketball team.

After graduation, she played professional basketball in Greece before trying out for several Women's National Basketball Association, or WNBA, teams.

She didn't make the pro cut, but "I was banging with some of the biggest girls and holding my own," said Houser, who lives in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

She made her big screen debut in the 2000 film, "Love and Basketball," and has appeared in sports-related TV commercials.

"But I don't aspire to act," said Houser, 25. "Basketball is still a priority for me."

She is a physical education teacher and coach at a private school in Sherman Oaks.

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She's followed her dreams while holding fast to her roots.

"I'm still very much a country girl who is pretty much living day to day in southern California," said Houser, who is the daughter of Susan Shirley and Donald Houser Jr.

"You've got to remember who you are and where you came from. You can't get too caught up. You have to stay real," she said.

While trying not to dream "too much outside the box," Houser found herself at the box office.

She joined a "huge cattle call" for women's basketball players to serve as extras on the set of "Love and Basketball," a movie about two talented athletes who are devoted to basketball and each other.

"Before I knew it, somebody handed me a script," Houser said. "Finally, I had something to put on my rsum."

She auditioned seven times before she landed a principal role in the New Line Cinema romantic drama, which was produced by Spike Lee. Houser's "Lisa Crenshaw" is a college basketball teammate of the film's female lead.

The first-time actress got her own trailer for the month she was on the set filming, she said.

"It was crazy the way we got pampered," Houser said. "They would get you anything you wanted, from gummy bears to chocolate to omelets."

Houser also has appeared in five television commercials for such companies as Nike, Foot Locker and WNBA.

"They're all not really acting roles for me," she said. "It's just me being an athlete."

And being an athlete is what Houser is all about, she said.

Retired Williamsport High head basketball coach Glenn Smith said Houser was one of the most gifted and driven basketball players that he's ever coached.

"She could jump. She could run. She had real good agility on the court," Smith said. "And she was a super player to coach. She had a good work ethic. She was just a real strong individual."

Houser also competed in shot put and discus events for the Williamsport High track team.

Track coach Curtis Graff said his hard-working former student was determined from the get-go to become a state champion.

Graff said that after a poor showing at a track meet when she was a freshman, Houser wrote on a track team clipboard, "I, Carla Houser, will be a state champion if it kills me."

She achieved her goal several times over, winning three state shot put titles in track, along with two state titles in volleyball and one in basketball.

Graff kept the clipboard and uses Houser's words as inspiration for young athletes.

Houser said she finds great satisfaction in teaching athletic skills to children at The Buckley School, where celebrities such as Warren Beatty and Annette Bening send their children. Houser coaches all middle school sports and is the varsity coach for the swimming and basketball teams.

"It's the greatest job in the world," she said. "Everything is working out."

Eventually, Houser would like to coach a Division 1 college basketball team, she said.

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