NORTHRIDGE, Calif. --- Throughout the history of basketball, there has been a long list of tall duos dominating the paint. From Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson to David Robinson and Tim Duncan, these tandems have often overpowered the opposition with their height and weight, gaining numerous accolades along the way. However, two guards on the Cal State Northridge women's basketball team are showing that big things come in small packages, too.
Their attack in the paint for rebounds has been exceptional. The Matadors are the Big West Conference's top rebounding team, and pulled down 60 boards in their win over San Jose State. Individually, Guay averages around five rebounds while Sharpe is close to four per game.
That disregard for the opposition's height has also helped the pair create fouls and get to the free throw line. Sharpe leads the team with 40 attempts and Guay is shooting 80 percent from the line in 25 attempts.
"On the court they are extremely similar and they complement each other well. They both are unselfish, play hard and take pride in their defense," head coach Jason Flowers said. "They have teamed up to play well together right from the jump."
Seeing them play has reminded Coach Flowers of the back court of Baron Davis and Earl Watson at UCLA. They both came in as freshmen; one was highly recruited while the other was a little below the radar. Both ended up playing in the NBA.
Sharpe, who is from Rialto, Cailf., was highly recruited. And according to ESPN's HoopGurlz.com, she was 29th-ranked guard in the class of 2011.
"She brings explosiveness and her defensive mindset is contagious and that is rare for a young player. For her to take pride in her defense and play as hard as she does, again it's contagious. She also brings a level of offense that as she gets older (in the games) and sees adjustments she needs to make, her scoring will continue to increase," Flowers said.
Sharpe's satisfaction on the defensive end comes from her mindset that "defense wins games."
"I want to get stops. I want the other team to turn the ball over so we can get more opportunities to score," Sharpe said.
"Janae has the ability to positively influence her team and to give a group confidence without saying a word. She has a swagger and she doesn't always have to say anything to bring it out," Flowers said.
Guay, a San Diego native, was recruited late because of a change in the roster at the end of last season. Now, the Matadors are lucky to have her high energy on the team. Guay did not expect the success she has had early in the season either.
"I thought Ashlee had a lot of the intangible things. She has come in with a skill level which has been higher then what the expectations were. She definitely is someone who has an impact on the game every single night out," Flowers said.
During a game, it seems like Guay is everywhere on the court. Her hustle and frantic energy frustrates opponents and she makes them pay, owning a league-leading 38 steals through the Matadors' first 10 contests.
"I want to show them no matter what I will try my hardest to get the ball and make sure we get the ball to score and do better than the other team. That to me is just a statistic, but in the game I want to get the ball to win the game and make my team proud," Guay said.
Northridge has certainly had some moments early on this season. The squad is off to its best start in seven years largely due to the play of these two rookies. The Matadors won their season opener for the first time in seven years (at San Francisco), beat LMU for the first time in 14 years and defeated a BIG EAST team, West Virginia, for the first time in school history.
In both of their career debuts, the victory over the Dons, Guay had a season-high 17 points, eight rebounds and five steals while Sharpe came off the bench to add a season-high 14 points.
For the season, Guay is averaging 9.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.8 steals per game. She leads the Big West Conference and ranks 12th among all players in NCAA Division I in steals per game.
Despite missing two games, Sharpe is averaging 9.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 steals per game. In addition to leading the team in free throw attempts, Sharpe has reached double-figures in scoring on five occasions.
The two have certainly shown promise on the court and that has to do with them pushing each other hard in practice and games.
"Ashlee motivates me to work hard especially with her defense. She is aggressive and attacks. She is everywhere all the time and it is the way she plays that keeps me motivated," Sharpe said.
"We bounce off each other's energy. We both go hard the whole time so when she is going hard, I push harder. We really feed off of each other," Guay added.
The two freshmen are still learning, but their ability to show they can play aggressively with their quickness and size has proven that both can be a threat in the paint like the bigs on the court. Now all that is left is reaping the rewards.