Off Court with Kalee Carey
When her size 13 pink, knee-high Ugg boots leave Denton A. Cooley Pavilion marching to the beat of an R&B tune on her iPod, the stereotypes that have accompanied this West Texas student-athlete continue to crumble behind her.
Growing up 90 minutes north of Lubbock in the small town of Canyon, Texas, 6-5 sophomore center Kalee Carey is not hesitant to show her gregarious personality, keen eye for fashion, and Longhorn spirit each day.
"Most of my friends either went to Texas Tech or stayed home and went to West Texas A&M in Canyon. Since I started playing basketball it had been a dream of mine to earn a college scholarship. When I came to visit UT I was very excited, and I felt really comfortable with the coaching staff and the players," Carey recalled.
Fortunately for Longhorn fans, the 6-5 Carey, with high school All-America accolades that rival only the nation's best, chose to don the Burnt Orange. Now in her second year on the Forty Acres, Carey continues to prove that she is a force to be reckoned with.
In a reserve role as a freshman, Carey learned lessons on and off the court from a great mentor - All-America post Stacy Stephens.
"On the court I learned to have a tough mindset and to always work really hard. Off the court Stacy taught me to be myself and not let anyone change who I am," Carey said.
She heeded Stephens' advice and entered her sophomore season as a role player who frequently comes off the bench for senior Heather Schreiber and sophomore Tiffany Jackson.
"I get in the game and do the dirty work: get rebounds and set screens. Next year with the new freshmen, I think I will have more of a leadership role. I'm committed to work hard and continue to improve to become an overall better player," Carey noted.
And improve she has. Since her freshman year, Carey has increased her minutes, points, and rebounds per game and has improved her field goal percentage from 38.2 percent as a rookie to her current shooting accuracy of 47.5 percent. Carey is averaging nearly 10 minutes of playing time per game with four points and three rebounds per contest.
"Kalee's gotten a bit tougher which is something she needed to do", UT assistant coach Kathy Harston stated. "She's a good shooter, and we need her to score for us in the low post position because of her size. She is such a hard matchup for our opponents,"
In the Big 12 conference, only three players currently see eye-to-eye with Carey (Baylor's 6-5 Melanie Hamerly, Oklahoma State's 6-5 Christian Hood and Texas Tech's 6-5 Cisti Greenwalt), and only Texas Tech's Patrice Edwards (at 6-6) is listed taller than the 6-5 Longhorn. Carey is the second tallest player in Longhorn history (behind 6-9 Ellen Bayer who played from 1986-90).
Despite her towering presence, Carey is a self-described fashion, shoe and small purse enthusiast. Kalee's favorite away trip destination this season was to Los Angeles where the team took a break and shopped at a Santa Monica mall. Shopping is a favorite hobby that Carey inherited from her mother, Linda.
"I really like the store The Buckle because they have XXL jeans," laughed Kalee. "It is sometimes hard for me to find shoes [in size 13], but I have found some places online to special order them."
Shopping is not the only thing Carey enjoys in cyberspace. Coach Harston has fondly nicknamed her "Google" because, as Harston recalls, "if we don't know something we just ask her and Kalee either knows the answer or comes up with it quickly for us by going on-line and finding out (by using the search engine Google.com). She's a very bright young lady."
"Some of my teammates think that I am kind of 'nerdy' because I really like to learn new things. If I don't know something, I'll get on the Internet and 'Google' search it," Carey confessed.
In the classroom, Carey is studying public relations and has been named to the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll twice. Kalee hopes to take what she learns in one of two directions. She would either like to work in the political realm of public relations or pursue a career in the entertainment industry.
While some may take their spot on UT's perennial basketball powerhouse team for granted, Carey knows of the opportunities available at Texas. At last year's NCAA first round game against Southern held at the Frank Erwin Center, Carey was in awe of the packed arena.
"It was so amazing to me. It was a really special feeling knowing that, 'Wow, I'm finally here - part of a program which has such great tradition.' It really is something special to play here and help this program try and win the national championship," Carey remarked.
And Carey certainly is in Austin making a name for herself. Out-going and affable, she defies the stereotype that someone might have of a West Texas native - someone who grew up in the wide plains, with ranches, small town populations and the images of the wild west and cowboys and cowgirls.
The true "fashionista" has her eyes on US Weekly and People magazines (to keep up with the entertainment world and get the latest scoop on the "Brad and Jen" saga) and also on any "Google" site which catches her interest. Additionally, Kalee also has her eye on the ultimate achievement - helping her Longhorn team pursue a national championship.