One of the nation's top female college basketball players and her Wabash man are pushing the 24-hour-day to its limits."
Two Against the Clock
by Jeff Washburn
Tell Wabash free safety Brent McCarty to cover a fleet-footed wide receiver on the game's final play with the outcome hanging in the balance, and the senior would embrace the assignment.
Ask Purdue senior guard Stephanie White-McCarty to take a last second shot with the Boilermaker women's team trailing by a point, and the All-American would welcome the opportunity.
But this past May 30, McCarty and White-McCarty became man and wife-a life that brings unexpected and unplanned challenges to the two very busy, very driven high-profile student-athletes.
Take, for example, a Tuesday night in late September.
White-McCarty had been up since 5 a.m.-conditioning, attending classes, playing pick-up games in Purdue's Mackey Arena, and studying.
Her husband-the Little Giants' defensive standout-had been up since 6 a.m., studying economics, driving from their Lafayette apartment to Crawfordsville for classes and football practice, and then returning to Tippecanoe County.
Each well-conditioned athlete was exhausted and ready for dinner. There was just one problem-there were no groceries in the house.
So at 9 p.m. Mr. and Mrs. McCarty jumped into their car and headed for a Lafayette supermarket. Within 30 minutes, they'd purchased $100 worth of groceries.
"You don't realize all this stuff when you're younger," McCarty said. "You pick up $5 here and $5 there, and then you get to the meat department. Then next thing you know, your bill is well past $80."
Some pre-season publications list White-McCarty as women's basketball's Division I Player of the Year, and she certainly will be playing professionally next season.
But during the 1998-99 school year, she and her Wabash man are pushing the 24-hour day to its limits.
School. Sports. Time for themselves. It's not easy.
"There is definitely a difference," McCarty said of being a married college athlete. "There are more responsibilities. It's not that it's bad. It's just that you have a whole different outlook. But you're not shying away from the athletic world."
Toss in the task of balancing a checkbook and visiting with friends and family, and there never seems to be enough time.
"There are 24 hours in a day, and by the time I drive to Wabash, go to class, go to football practice, drive home and have dinner, it's eight o'clock," McCarty said. "That's time to start studying. Steph and I see each other for 20 minutes while I'm eating."
After dinner, each retreats to their designated study areas within the apartment. White-McCarty usually drifts off to sleep first. The Wabash football player is the night owl.
"It's a good experience," McCarty said. "What we are going through now, we are going to value in the future. A lot of people, when they first get married, they get to spend a lot of time together. Right now, time is of the essence, and it seems like there are so many things to do."
Accustomed to assignments on the football field and on the basketball floor, McCarty and his wife have them at home, too.
McCarty is this family's cook. He enjoys the kitchen. His wife doesn't, although she's created a mean spaghetti recipe this fall.
"As soon as the football season is over, I'm sure I will be back in the kitchen," McCarty said.
Sundays are reserved for laundry and cleaning, and maybe a visit from White-McCarty's parents, who live in West Lebanon, Indiana. Her dad works for Quaker Oats, so a visit may include a care package of various cereals.
That's always helpful for a couple trying to make ends meet.
McCarty claims married athletes must have their priorities in order.
"Steph obviously is very important to me, and I'm going to take care of her above anything else," McCarty said.
A Flora, Indiana native and three-sport standout at Carroll High School, McCarty met his wife when the couple were high school freshmen. Indiana's leading female career high school scorer, White earned Miss Basketball honors in 1995.
They were introduced by twin sisters Holly and Robin Patton-McCarty's cousins who were White's teammates at Seeger High School.
"I really didn't know who she was," McCarty said of their first meeting. "She didn't start building her fame until her sophomore year. We started dating when we were sophomores, and from there, we just clicked."
The feeling was mutual for the Purdue star.
"We communicate about everything," she said. "Sometimes I will tighten up when something is bothering me, but he has the ability to make me feel at ease talking about it. I always tease him that he is one of the few good guys still out there. He's a wonderful person."
It should come as no surprise that most of their dinner conversations center on sports.
"She may talk about her shot not being on, and I may say that I just couldn't make a tackle tonight," McCarty said. "ESPN is always on TV."
Each is on schedule to graduate in May, and after that, White-McCarty's future likely is set-as a professional player.
Being an economics major, will McCarty be his wife's Jerry McGuire?
"I tease her about it," he said. "When people ask where she wants to go, I say, 'Show me the money.' But my goal isn't to be her agent. If it comes down to it, and she asks questions, I can handle that kind of stuff. My future, though, is in other things."