Big-Name Buffs

Spears, Houston starring in their own right for Colorado

Nov. 28, 2007

By Lara Boyko

Special to


Lara Boyko

Lara Boyko covers a variety of sports for
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After spending almost my entire life in Los Angeles, one would think that I would be bored from running into celebrities such as Steve Martin, Kobe Bryant or the Beckhams. Yet it was just recently when I got a chance to not only meet, but also sit down and talk with Brittany Spears and Whitney Houston that made me realize how lucky I am to live in a city that is a hotbed of celebrity activity.


No, I did not just make a spelling or factual error in the above paragraph as it was a week and a half ago when the Colorado women's basketball team came through LA as part of a west coast road trip when I got to meet the most famous names that can be found in any backcourt in women's college basketball -- 6-foot-1 freshman forward Spears and 5-foot-5 sophomore guard Houston.




"We've had a lot of fun with it and they have a lot of fun with it," said Colorado coach Kathy McConnell-Miller. "It never fails with the reaction I get when sometimes I forget the group I am speaking to - that they didn't know or didn't realize it and I say it and there are bursts of laughter or whispers and then I have to clarify it. They are best of friends, roommates and they are inseparable. It's funny to see their reaction in how they handle it. It doesn't hurt, that's for sure."


Just as people outside of the Colorado program will do a double-take at the mention of these two players, it wasn't long ago when Miller and her staff had the same reaction.


"I think we were surprised at first that they actually had those names," said Miller. "As a staff we sat down and while evaluating our priorities, I remember saying `wouldn't it be something if we had Brittany Spears and Whitney Houston in the same class?' As it was narrowing down, it looked like it was a possibility. They were both great high school players in their own right and it just turned out that way. It sort of evolved in having them in the same class, which was fun."


After Spears spent a post grad year at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., she and Houston are teammates at last. They've found that sharing names with famous celebrities can be fun, but at the same time frustrating.


"At school I had to call someone to get my ID for the computer and when I told them my name, they hung up on me," said Spears. "I called them back to tell them that this was really my name."


Their names are unforgettable to the rest of the world, but in Colorado's world of women's basketball, it's their contributions on the court that cannot be overlooked.


Not only are both Spears and Houston starters on the team, but Spears is the team's No. 2 scorer with 14.8 ppg (which ranks her No. 12 in the Big 12 Conference) and Houston is tied for fifth with 4.8 ppg and No. 13 in three-point shooting percentage in the Big 12.


While Colorado's Spears will have to enjoy the spotlight while playing, if Houston isn't seeing enough time on the court during regulation playing time, she has been able to enjoy some time in the spotlight at center court.


"Whitney actually thinks she can sing, as she sang in her church choir at home and then last year before one of our games during the Coors Classic, she asked if she could sing the national anthem," said Miller. "Not knowing how she could sing, after a shoot around or practice one day, we brought in a microphone and cleared the arena and let her give it a whirl. She actually was pretty good, so she sang it before the game. She was excited and a little bit nervous, but our fans loved it. They gave her a standing ovation and just erupted and were excited for her."


On the court there is excitement with these two players, but it is off the court where their friendship was set up better than an alley-oop pass.


"I knew it because during the summer when she wasn't there, I would text her to tell her I couldn't wait for us to be roommates," said Houston of being a roommate with Spears. "When I came into the room and saw her, I gave her a big hug because I was happy to see her. It is fun and we never get tired of each other."


Unlike their famous counterparts, Spears and Houston have never been in rehab (even for a non-substance related concern) and are kept humble by their teammates. Yet each of them has their own idea of what it would be like to enjoy a diva-like moment.


"If we go to a hotel when we are traveling, I would go where I want to go such as parties and stuff," said Spears, who is not a fan of the performer who shares her name, but does enjoy her one song Sometimes.


"My coach will have moments where if she needs a Diet Coke, she needs a Diet Coke right then and there," said Houston, whose favorite song by the singer who shares her name is My Love Is Your Love. "I would like to have that and since I like Butterfingers, that would be my request for someone to take care of right away. That or chapstick."