Nov. 12, 2013
By Tyler Wallace
GREENVILLE, N.C. –The East Carolina University women’s basketball team is enjoying a 2-0 start following tip-off weekend and looks forward to two games this week with William & Mary on Friday, November 15, and Loyola (Maryland) traveling to Minges Coliseum on Sunday, November 17.
To most Pirate fans Sunday is just another game on the road to the Conference USA tournament, but to sophomore guard Colleen Marshall and the rest of the Marshall family it’s almost like a family reunion.
Kara Marshall is a junior guard for the Loyola Greyhounds and if you haven’t made the connection, Colleen and Kara are sisters.
Colleen and Kara grew up just a year apart with Kara being the older of the two. The sisters were the youngest girls of a family of seven children.
It all started with a dirt backyard set up with a hoop and weeds under the basket for the two Gaithersburg, Md., natives.
“We had to jump around trees to shoot some three-pointers and the weeds made it impossible to go under the basket,” Colleen said about where her career started and where her relationship with her sister became a strong bond.
They grew up playing AAU organized basketball, and together won the first state championship for the Gaithersburg High School girl’s basketball team during Kara’s senior year in 2011. But when Kara graduated and went on to continue her basketball career at Loyola, Colleen didn’t skip a beat in continuing the legacy Kara left at Gaithersburg.
Colleen captained her Trojan squad to their second consecutive state championship and 52 consecutive victories after the sisters had led their squad to a 26-0 season a year earlier. She found herself a three-star recruit from ESPN Hoopgurlz and was garnering attention from college programs.
“I thought it would be cool to play each other in college but I never really thought the opportunity would arise,” Colleen said. “Then Coach (Heather) Macy asked me last year if I would be interested playing her in Greenville and the following year playing in Baltimore and I was like, ‘Totally! That would be awesome!’ I was obviously really happy about it.”
Prior to the interview with Colleen, she had just got off the phone with Kara, giving a fair representation of their close bond as more than sisters. When asked about their relationship, both girls gave almost identical answers.
“We are best friends,” Colleen said. “We have always played against each other in the backyard. That’s how we grew up. We started playing on our first AAU team together. We have a really close relationship and basketball is one thing we share that we both just loved doing with each other. It really helped build our relationship and helped us grow closer together and understand each other in a different way.”
“We aren’t just sisters, we are best friends,” Kara echoed. “We talk on the phone every day and I think being so far away (from each other) has really helped us build a stronger relationship.”
Despite the close bond the sisters share, Colleen has been sure to make it clear that when the whistle blows and tip-off is underway that the sibling title gets thrown away to help secure a Pirates’ victory.
“We have been trash talking each other, but it’s friendly,” Colleen said with a smile. “When tip-off starts and we are in between the lines, it is a no-friend zone. We aren’t sisters at that point.”
Kara agrees and knows that when she steps off the bus that she can only focus on the game ahead and not about who is sitting on the opposite bench.
“When the game starts, she is just like every other opponent. I can’t treat her any differently,” said Kara.
The opportunity to play siblings is something that many athletes know doesn’t come around often and Colleen has made it clear that she’s excited to be given the chance.
“I think the opportunity that we have is amazing,” Colleen said. “A lot of siblings go to different schools and play the same sport but don’t ever get the opportunity to play each other. So, I think the fact that we get to do so is great. I am ecstatic about it.”
Tendencies and habits are pretty easy to pick up on after playing each other a few times or watching film, but for the Marshall sisters years and years of one-on-one competition and watching games can help too.
“Oh I know her like the back of my hand, Kara said. “I know her habits, her tendencies, how to get into her head. I know everything about her.”
And Colleen feels like she knows just as much about Kara.
“We both know each other’s game pretty well,” Colleen explained. “We both play very differently. That’s one thing that is kind of interesting. She plays one way and I play another, but we both know each other’s tendencies and habits and what we like to do and not like to do.”
Learning those habits and tendencies on the court came from countless backyard games. But if you ask each sister who was the ultimate champion in one-on-one battles, their answers differ.
“Oh it’s me. She will even tell you it is,” Colleen said very confidently.
When Kara was told what Colleen said about being the ultimate champion, she was very quick to disagree.
“No. I definitely am. There is no doubt,” Kara said.
Unfortunately, we will not see the sisters battle it out one-on-one, but the rest of the Pirates and Greyhounds will be vying for a win on Sunday, November 17. The whole Marshall clan will make the trip to Greenville for the game, but there is a sense of uncertainty between the two sisters on one thing: what colors are going to be worn by the family – purple or green?