Texas' Stacy Stephens and Jamie Carey -- who played their last college game together Saturday as the Longhorns lost to LSU -- are good friends. And it's an interesting look into personality and "social expectations'' to see the two of them interact with people.
Stephens is the gentle one who doesn't want to intimidate anyone off court. It's still not so easy being the "big girl,'' even in our supposedly enlightened 2004 society. I've never heard Stephens complain in the slightest about mean things that might have been said to her over the years, but I'm sure there have been a few.
SWEET 16 SCHEDULE
SATURDAY East Region: Hartford, Conn.
(5) Notre Dame vs. (1) Penn State, noon, ESPN
(11) UC Santa Barbara vs. (2) UConn, 2:30 p.m., ESPN
West Region: Seattle, Wash.
(4) LSU vs. (1) Texas, 9 p.m., ESPN
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She has let that roll off her back, and I think she could disarm even the biggest jerks with her self-deprecating wit. Stephens is someone anybody would love to have as a friend: funny, kind, loyal and honest.
And she's a very interesting person beyond basketball. Stephens likes to draw, and one of her favorite classes has been sign language. Her artwork is done in charcoal and pastels. She jokes of the latter that she prefers it because, "You can mess it up, then smudge it and say you did it on purpose for the effect.''
She enjoyed sign-language class because she had a dynamic professor and also because she believes it means something to hearing-impaired or deaf people when, "They know you're at least trying to reach out and communicate in their language. Even if, like me, you're not very good at it.''
Of course, Stephens has needed to be poked and prodded at times to be the basketball player she's capable of being. And Carey has been the right person to do that.
"Jamie yells when you do something right, and when you do something wrong, and when she wants you do something ... basically, she yells a lot,'' Stephens said, perfectly deadpan.
Carey doesn't suffer fools gladly. She has been through a lot in her life. I won't categorize it here; most are familiar with her story and she doesn't particularly care for it being rehashed.
She doesn't want you worrying about her getting knocked down or whatever ... in fact, it just flat-out ticks her off. She's out there playing basketball for Texas, and that's that.
"Intensity'' is an overused word in sports, but Carey is as intense as any college player I've ever dealt with. She will let us reporters know if we've asked something stupid -- which we all do at times -- or are treading some ground she doesn't want to tread. With a look or tone of voice, she gets her message across.
It's very genuine -- she's not being mean, she just has her boundaries. And at least you know she's really listening; hey, lots of folks answer the dumb questions and the good questions pretty much the same way. And I have to say that I like the fact that you get 100 percent real Jamie Carey when you talk to her.
You can always tell Stephens is listening, too, because if she doesn't get the point of your dumb, rambling question, she'll tell you in some really nice way. Like, "Um, I'm not sure where you're going there, but I'm a little dense .... '' Which she isn't at all.
Stephens and Carey obviously hope to get Texas two victories further than the Longhorns got last season. There's a lot of ground to cover if that's going to happen, and they're well aware of that.
But it has been neat to see these two help each other out. Carey surely has made Stephens focus harder, and Stephens has made Carey laugh -- maybe at times when few others could. That's what good friends can do: give the other what she needs most.
Mechelle Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.