WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Two of a Kind

J. Michael Moore

Nothing brightens a woman’s day like a gift from Tiffany’s.

But when it comes to laughter and pick-me-ups, the Lady Toppers have a much less expensive way to find diamonds and pearls of wisdom.

They have their own Tiffany’s.

Tiffiany Diggins and Tiffany Porter-Talbert each have a way of lighting up Diddle Arena. But off the court, they work on taking the edge off life.

“If you saw them out in public, you would think they were two mean chicks and very quiet,” senior guard Kristina Covington said. “But when you get them behind closed doors, they’re definitely not mean. And they’re definitely not quiet.”

Opposites attract

At first glance, the duo seem to share little more than a name.

Porter-Talbert, the second-shortest player on the team, has all the markings of a freshman phenom.

She is ranked 11th in the Sun Belt Conference in scoring (12 points per game), ninth in rebounding (7.5 rpg), and is in the top-ten in three other statistical categories starting every game this season.

Those are numbers that have many tabbing her as a favorite for Newcomer of the Year honors.

“It would be a big honor,” Porter-Talbert said of the possible award. “But, you can’t get anywhere with out your teammates. We play as a team, we win as a team, we lose as a team. As a player I want to contribute anything to the team that would help us win.”

Diggins, in contrast, is the tallest Lady Topper, but has spent the last two seasons since transferring from Central Arizona Community College as more of a role player — the threat off the bench, not the everyday scorer.

She had a season-high 10 points Feb. 3 against Butler.

“As a basketball player, I’ve never been a strictly offensive player or a defensive player. When I’m watching the game I try to see what we need to focus on.”

Diggins said she then likes to come into the game and give her team “the spark it needs.”

But any Lady Topper will tell you, Diggins and Porter-Talbert give out plenty more sparks off the court, just by being together.

Any shyness the two show on the surface, is abandoned in the locker room.

Lady Topper idols

Diggins and Porter-Talbert have spent a lot of time together since the beginning of the year.

As roommates they have developed a sister-like relationship and figured out ways to get laughs out of their teammates and coaches.

“They both have beautiful singing voices,” head coach Mary Taylor Cowles said. “I think they laugh any time I say something about it. They’re unbelievable with the talent they’ve got. They’re both very funny.

They both are very quiet, kind of to themselves, but they’re hilarious whenever you get to joking around with them and talking to them.”

It’s not simply a matter of being comedic though. They’re funny because life is too short to be serious.

For them it would seem laughter comes natural and is one of the best ways to relieve the stress of homework, travel and college basketball.

“There are so many things in life that can be so serious,” Diggins said. “So, we make the simple things in life funny. It could be something that someone says or does that is so stupid that most people won’t even laugh about, but we laugh about it.

“I think laughter is a good thing.”

Diggins and Porter-Talbert may light up a room, but they can also send one crashing down with their hijinx.

The action can be too much for some.

“Most of the time, when they’re together, there’s too much going on at one time,” Covington said. “You have to get away and focus, then you can come back. They fight like sisters, they wrestle, they smash each other. It’s crazy.”

As a freshman, Porter-Talbert is facing her own set of difficulties in and out of the classroom.

She is far from her Manhattan Beach, Calif. home and has had to learn the point-guard position from scratch.

Not to mention classes.

With so much going on, getting up in the morning is often a struggle.

“We just like having fun, and that’s what life is about,” Porter-Talbert said. “It used to be hard to get up in the morning because we have breakfast checks. But, if you’re going to do it, you might as well get up and be happy about it.”

Family ties

Diggins and Porter-Talbert rely on faith and the occasional family member to cheer them up.

Diggins said it’s not uncommon for the two to pray about a problem before turning to each other for added advice.

As for family, college is the ultimate separation.

Porter-Talbert’s mother has been to many games. Her stepfather works for an airline, making travel a little easier. But she also has a large extended family that sometimes find their way to games.

Diggins may be the older of the two, but she has become the adopted sister of her roommate’s family, since she rarely sees her own in Des Moines, Wash.

“I call her mom ‘Mamma Porter’ and I call her grandma Grandma,” Diggins said. “With Tif’s family, everybody is so loving and caring. It’s obvious that you’re going to want to go out and be around them, because they’re such kind people.”

Porter-Talbert said she relies on her roommate, who has been a driving force ever since she arrived at Western in August.

“I’ve always wanted a sister,” she said. “Tiffiany is like a big sister to me. She notices I might have had a bad day or a bad practice and she’ll write me a note about it. One of those notes had a quote saying: Some succeed because they are destined to and some succeed because they are determined to.

“I’m really glad we are roommates.”

The people that watch them play basketball are glad they are teammates.

Reach J. Michael Moore at [email protected]