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As a senior at East Poinsett High in Lepanto, Ark., Jordan Madden scored 45 of the Warriors' 51 points in the 2009 state 3A title game. But when she came to Baylor as part of the same freshman class as Griner, she gave up any dreams of high-scoring glory. In fact, she gave up offense. "Coach [Kim] Mulkey said if I could defend, she'd have a place for me on the floor," says the 6-foot senior guard, who admits she was "terrible" on that side of the ball when she got to Waco. After a freshman year spent chasing star guard Melissa Jones in practice, Madden became the Lady Bears' stopper, her sole duty making life miserable for the opponent's most dangerous perimeter threat. The keys to her disruptive powers? She is relentless about sticking close to shooters coming off screens and alters their attempts with her speed and her 75-inch wingspan. "She makes players take the extra dribble or get rid of the ball a half-second quicker than they want to," says associate head coach Bill Brock. "She does all the little intangible things defensively that do not show up in the box score."
Outsiders may not appreciate Madden's work—she can't remember if anyone has written about her before—but Mulkey does. "Jordan's freshman year, she was one of the worst defenders we had," says Mulkey. "Against Missouri, she and [guard Kimetria] Hayden were just abused. We kept after it, and now I'm very comfortable with Jordan. I want her guarding the top players all the time."
Madden's focus on defense did have a downside: Her neglected shot developed rust, allowing opponents to double on Griner. Last season Madden shot 35.3% from the field and 20.3% from beyond the arc, for 4.3 points a game. This year she put in extra time with Brock after practice, drilling on layups, midrange jumpers and three-point shots. Her field goal shooting rose to 52.7%, and she made 40.0% long range, tied for best on the team. (She averaged 7.6 points to go with 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals.) "Now players won't sag off of her and just sit in my lap," says Griner. "That opens things up for me."
Despite her rediscovered offense, Madden's identity remains wrapped up in defense. She has even found that her talent has applications beyond the court: On a visit to the Six Flags amusement park in Dallas a few days after the Lady Bears won the Big 12 tournament, Griner was mobbed by autograph seekers—until Madden stepped in and gently cut them off. And so her role expands again. "She makes a really good bodyguard," Griner says.
According to Connecticut coach and renowned nitpicker Geno Auriemma, 5'11" senior guard Kelly Faris has one critical flaw: She is so understated and judicious in her comments that she gives him little material to razz her about. "And," he says, "she very rarely does dumb things."
She does, however, do a lot of valuable things. In addition to delivering 10.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists a game, Faris guards the opponent's best player, tips rebounds, deflects passes, winds up at the bottom of every loose-ball pile and generally plays, says Auriemma, "like a jayvee player trying to make varsity."
Adds assistant Shea Ralph, "Honestly, there were games this year when I felt like Kelly won the game by herself." Case in point: In a 63--48 victory over Maryland in December, Faris had eight points, eight steals, seven rebounds and seven assists, all while holding the Terps' best player, 6'2" All-America Alyssa Thomas, to six points, 12 below her average.
Faris, who cops to being a bit of a masochist—"I'm one of those people, if I don't have homework, I'm going to figure out a way to have homework," she says—has a particular love for playing hard-nosed defense, since that's what got her on the floor as a freshman, when the team revolved around future players of the year Tina Charles and Maya Moore. "We had an unbelievably talented team that didn't need much," says Faris, who won four straight Indiana Class 2A titles with Plainfield's Heritage Christian High. "I was going to be whatever they needed me to be and do it the best I possibly could."
This year Faris has added a reliable jump shot, improving her field goal percentage to 52.7% from 43.8% and her three-point rate to 39.6% from 31.5%. "For three years other teams thought, When we play Connecticut, let's not guard Kelly Faris," says Auriemma. "All of a sudden this year it's, Damn, who is going to guard Kelly Faris?" Although she was named Big East defensive player of the year as well as co--most improved, she didn't get the all-conference nod her coach thought she deserved. Not that he's surprised. "Kids like Kelly are underappreciated because they aren't spectacular at anything," Auriemma says. "But what matters to us is that she's really, really good at a lot of things."