Girlfriends of the Sweet Sixteen
Seth Curry & Anastasia Simone Carillo
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Many of the players who could shine in the Sweet Sixteen have thrived off the court as well as on, going steady with girlfriends whom many would sit up and take notice of (to say nothing of Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enright’s fetching wife). Meet some of the Girlfriends of the Sweet Sixteen.
Love apparently knows no bounds, even within the context of fierce Tobacco Road rivalries. Case in point: The girlfriend of Duke sharp-shooter Seth Curry, Anastasia Simone Carillo, is a North Carolina graduate. Based on the former UNC dancer’s photo portfolio (she’s trying to make it as a model), it’s easy to see why Curry could see past her alma mater.
Judging by Carillo tweeting about/at Curry as far back as the fall of 2011, it looks as though they’ve been an item since Curry arrived in Durham. No wonder his transfer from Liberty has gone so swimmingly.
Aaron Craft & Amber Petersen
Are you at all surprised that the steady, Ohio-bred point guard and leader of the Buckeyes first dated his girlfriend in the eighth grade?
While Aaron Craft makes a name for himself on the hardwood, his former high school (now college) sweetheart Amber Petersen — who herself was a standout basketball player for the girls’ team at Liberty-Benton High in Findlay — is pursuing a degree in medical dietetics at OSU, as well as keeping her all-everything boyfriend humble.
“She’s not afraid to tell me what I need to hear,” Craft told Ohio State’s school newspaper, The Latern, last February. “When I mess up, she’s going to tell me I messed up, and when I do something right, she’s there to tell me.”
Ryan Kelly & Lindsay Cowher
Yes, your (likely) first thought upon reading the above pairing is correct: The x-factor in Duke’s pursuit of a fifth national title is dating the youngest daughter of the intense, iron-jawed former coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bill Cowher.
Kelly and Cowher have known one another since high school, when both were standouts on the basketball court at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh. Cowher intended to continue playing in college as well, spending the 2009–2010 season at Wofford before giving up the sport and transferring back closer to home to Elon (she’s scheduled to graduate this spring).
Being the potential son-in-law of a famously defensive-minded coach might explain Kelly’s evolution into a capable player on that side of the floor — much to the Blue Devils coaches’ delight.
Chase Fieler & Whitney Masters
Florida Gulf Coast’s high-flying junior forward is just one half of a potent sports-playing tandem on the Cinderella school’s Fort Myers campus.
Whitney Masters, a starter on FGCU’s women’s volleyball team, introduced herself to the Twittersphere when her boyfriend threw down his now-famous one-handed dunk late in the Eagles’ Round of 64 Upset of Georgetown. In response, Fieler was more than happy to sing Masters’ praises.
“She’s obviously a starter for the volleyball team as a sophomore,” Fieler told the Fort Myers News-Press. “They won conference. She’s played on national teams in high school so she’s an unbelievable athlete. And as a student she has an unbelievable 4.0 GPA in the nursing program, which is absolutely crazy.”
Becoming the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen isn’t too shabby either, Chase.
Jeff Withey & Abbey Oliver
The girlfriend of the Jayhawks’ shot-blocking phenom is a sweet, senior sorority girl (Kappa Kappa Gamma) from New Mexico — one whose social media savvy opened the door for one of the funnier friendships in college basketball.
Oliver, you see, was good friends with the person behind the popular, hilariously crude @FakeJeffWithey Twitter account (which boasts several thousand more follower’s than Withey’s actual Twitter account). She thought, Why not get the real Jeff and fake Jeff together?
“I was expecting a crude guy that just cusses,” Withey told The University Daily Kansan earlier this month. “Fake Jeff is not like the account at all. He’s a cool guy. He’s really funny. I was just expecting something completely different.”
It was a job well done by a young woman who had previously admitted to the Daily Kansan that one of her guilty pleasures is Facebook stalking for 1-2 hours a day.
Mason Plumlee & Jasmine Thomas
More likely than not, Plumlee will follow in the footsteps that his girlfriend Thomas laid out for him two years earlier: Being a first-round draft pick.
A standout on two Elite Eight teams (2010 and 2011) as well as the seventh all-time leading scorer in Blue Devils’ women’s history (1,704 points), Thomas was the 12th overall pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft. After spending her first two seasons with the Washington Mystics, she was traded in February to the Atlanta Mystics. How fitting would it be if the Atlanta Hawks were the ones to draft Plumlee?
Seeing that Thomas is two years older than Plumlee, we can only imagine how many cougar jokes she must face in the WNBA.
Christian Watford & Morganne Phillips
One can imagine that Phillips has been given a hard time about Indiana’s buzzer-beating win over Kentucky in December of 2011 by her teammates on the Wildcats track team. After all, it was her longtime boyfriend, Christian Watford, whose 3-pointer won the game for the Hoosiers.
Phillips, in fact, was at Assembly Hall to watch her sweetheart from Shades Valley High School in Irondale, AL — where she and Watford starred on the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams, respectively — hit the biggest shot of his career to date. But her devotion to UK shouldn’t be doubted.
Earlier this season, she broke a 25-year-old record for the fastest 300-meter dash time at Gladstien Fieldhouse, the indoor track facility at ... Indiana. She also got the last laugh last season as Kentucky’s basketball team beat IU in the Sweet Sixteen and cut down the nets in New Orleans for a national title.
Mitch McGary & Kayley Layman
As Mitch McGary is continuing to stand out in his freshman season at Michigan, his girlfriend from back home in northwest Indiana, Kayley Layman, is scheduled to graduate this spring from Big Ten rival Purdue with a degree in mathematics.
The two appear to have met when McGary was still attending Chesterton High (he transferred to Brewster [NH] Academy for his final two years) and Layman was at New Prairie High in nearby Carlisle. McGary is clearly as a charmer, as it’s not every guy that can convince a Hollister model (as listed on Layman’s Facebook page) to go out with him.
McGary may be a rugged presence inside on the basketball court, but when it comes to his steady, he’s just your typical smitten boyfriend.
Erik Murphy & Lauren Embree
Embree has one thing that her boyfriend and the rest of his Gators teammates desperately crave: a national championship.
A key member of the Florida women’s tennis team that captured the 2011 NCAA title, Embree first met Murphy during their freshmen year at a shared UF workout facility. Since then, they’ve been there for and supported one another as only two athletes can.
“We both support each other when things get tough,” Murphy told GatorSports.com for a profile on the couple in February 2012. “We try to help each other. It’s not far from a normal relationship, just that sports don’t leave as much time.”
Added Embree: “We both know what it takes to overcome adversity. We both can talk about our sports and bounce things off each other. I know he’s going to be trying to do the best he can and he knows that I’m trying the best I can.”
Travis Releford & Jennifer Covell
Releford coming into his own as the Jayhawks’ glue guy and defensive stopper has coincided with an even more important development off the court: Coming into his own as a father.
Two years ago this past January, Releford’s girlfriend, Jennifer Covell — a fellow Kansas student and Kansas City native — gave birth to their son, T.J. When he’s not on the court, Releford spends most of his free time with his girlfriend and their son. (He currently lives in a KU dorm while Jennifer and T.J. live in a separate apartment in Lawrence.)
“I have a son I would hope one day would grow up and play basketball, too, and I want to coach him and help him out along the way,” Releford told KUSports.com in January. “I’m there every day for my son. I see him every day, and I’m here to watch him grow and teach him.”