January 22, 2003

Smackdown Sisters

Jan. 22, 2003

By Jack Ferdon
The Santa Clara Sports Staff Writer

When the Butler sisters battle it out in the low post, do not stand and watch, do not make any comments and certainly do not get in their way. Just head for the hills. Because when Julie and Kimmy go at it down low, a sisterly spat - perhaps the familial fracas with the greatest potential for sheer nastiness - cannot be far off.

This was a truism when the girls were little and played against one another just for fun.

"We used to play one-on-one out in the back yard, but then we'd get into a fight and not talk for the rest of the day," said Julie Butler, a senior forward on the women's basketball team (Kimmy is a sophomore and also plays forward).

It continued to be true in high school, when the two played together at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, Wash.

"During a practice my freshman year, I was guarding Julie and swatted her and she yelled out, 'What the hell!'" said Kimmy. "Then she started throwing me around and the coach had to break it up."

But that was not the end of it. Julie refused to give her kid sister a ride home after practice, forcing Kimmy to wait at school until their mother picked her up.

The Butlers' teammates have kept their lips sealed as to whether the sisters have continued their squabbles during practices here at Santa Clara. But from the sound of it, they most assuredly have.

"All of us as post players get into little tiffs at practice because we're all competitive and we want to kick the crap out of each other," said senior forward Kendra Rhea, who leads the Broncos with an average of eight rebounds per game.

Despite all the hissy fits and donnybrooks, Julie and Kimmy have remained as close as, well, sisters throughout their lives and are thrilled that they are playing college basketball together.

"I'm definitely proud of Kimmy," Julie said. "We were best friends growing up, so I was excited when she came to Santa Clara."

Kimmy added, "I could have gone somewhere else, but I'm glad I had the chance to play with Julie."

Surprisingly, both sisters agree that Julie is the better player.

"I hope she's better - she's older," Kimmy said.

"I have more experience," Julie concurred.

But if statistics have any bearing on the matter, the difference between the sisters' aptitudes at balling must be miniscule. They have nearly identical scoring averages (Julie nets 7.4 a game to Kimmy's 7.3) and play practically the same amount of minutes per contest (18.1 to 17.3).

Julie gets a few more boards while Kimmy has the superior shooting percentage - her mark of 54 percent leads the team - but this is due partly to the fact that the 6-foot-2 Julie is more of a perimeter offensive player while the 6-foot-1 Kimmy tends to be a banger down in the post.

In addition to similar stats, the sisters also share something unique - the knowledge that comes with playing on the same team with someone for your entire life.

"We know each other and each other's games," Kimmy said. "I know Julie's moves and exactly where and when she wants the ball. When you play with someone so long, you know what she's thinking out on the court."

Call it familiarity, call it telepathy or just call it sisterhood. By any name, the combination of the Butler sisters - along with stellar frontcourt play from Rhea and senior forward Tammy Annas and some strong backcourt scoring from sophomore guard Quinn Thomas - has spurred Santa Clara to a 10-4 record thus far, including victories in eight of its last nine contests.

The Broncos will face perhaps their biggest challenge of the season Thursday when they take on the Waves at the Leavey Center. Pepperdine beat Santa Clara for the conference title last season and has a 10-5 record this year, but the Broncos like their chances.

"We're doing awesome," said Kimmy. "I think we're better than Pepperdine. If we keep improving the way we are we'll win the league."