Best Friends Will Be Rivals

March 17, 2005

Sebnem and Yasemin Kimyacioglu have spent the week redefining their notions of sibling rivalry while their parents pull out their red clothes, the color that will cover both loyalties, and look for the most neutral seats they can find in Fresno's Save Mart Center.

But Sebnem, Stanford's senior forward, and Yasemin, the Broncos' sophomore guard, aren't the only ones torn by Saturday night's Stanford-Santa Clara matchup in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Stanford center Brooke Smith made two calls immediately after it was revealed that the second-seeded Cardinal would take on the 15th-seeded Broncos. The first was to her mother, the second to best friend Lauren Michalski, a reserve guard for Santa Clara. The two former high-school teammates at Marin Catholic have been close friends since the seventh grade.

"It's interesting, because the day before we spent the day together, and at dinner we'd been talking about how great it would be if we both ended up in Fresno," Smith said. "But I don't think it crossed either of our minds that we could be playing each other."

These two friends have traveled parallel paths. After high school, both opted to leave the area for college. Smith headed to Duke on a basketball scholarship, Michalski to Arizona State, where she was a walk-on with the Sun Devils.

Both stayed away only one year. Smith returned to play at Stanford, and Michalski jumped at the chance to attend Santa Clara.

Smith has played a pivotal role in Stanford's success this season, earning a spot on the All-Pac-10 team while Michalski has been a frequent spectator at Santa Clara games, a stress fracture in her foot forcing her to miss 16 games this season. Michalski, averaging 6.2 minutes and 1.4 points a game, was only cleared to play last week and doesn't expect to see much playing time against Stanford.

Both Smith and Michalski admit they would like to get to tip-off as quickly as possible.

"It is bitter because 99.5 percent of the time I am always rooting for Brooke and this is the 0.5 percent that I won't,'' Michalski said.

Smith feels the same.

"You want your friends to do well, to succeed,'' Smith said. "And I can't hope for her team to win because we are on the other side. It makes things awkward. Our friendship will be fine. But it's not the greatest thing ever."