There is such a thing in life as a sisterly bond.
There also is such a thing in sports as the bond between coach and player.
It's rare that two people share both of those bonds. In the case of Ashland University women's basketball assistant coach Kari Pickens and Eagle junior forward Andi Daugherty, those bonds are a strong combination.
In their third season together as part of the No. 1-ranked team in NCAA Division II, Pickens and Daugherty don't just walk a fine line between their personal and collegial roles. They have them down to a science – most of the time, anyway.
"Each season has its ups and downs in terms of trying to separate a coach from a sister," Daugherty said. "There are games where I get frustrated, but you come back the next week and it's back to normal. Just like sisters fighting. I get mad at her, but I can't get mad at the coach. There has to be that respect level, so it's challenging at times, but the positive times trump the trials every single week, so it's been a fun experience."
Pickens is in her fourth season as an assistant coach with the Eagles following a two-year playing stint in which she became the most decorated player in program history. In addition to winning a national title as a senior in 2012-13, her name appears in the Ashland record book dozens of times over, including ranking sixth all-time in scoring (1,414 points) and second in rebounds (903).
Daugherty has put her stamp on the Eagles in less than three full seasons, moving up to ninth on the program's all-time scoring list (1,278 pounds) and knocking on the door of moving into the top five all-time in rebounds.
What has made being both sister-sister and coach-player easier is having gone through a similar situation in AAU ball.
"Having had the opportunity to coach her five years prior to her even coming to AU…definitely helped with the transition," Pickens said. "I think she kind of knew what to expect in terms of my coaching style coming in. It's a little different, me not being the head coach like I was for our AAU team, but I think it's been really fun.
"To just get to share life with her is really special. It's not something that very many siblings get to do whenever they get to college."
Daugherty said, "She treats me no different than she does any other player. Actually, I think she pushes me more, to kind of make sure that it doesn't seem like she's favoring me. I know one way or the other, whether it's challenging or supporting, she's doing it both for the team and as a loving sister, trying to make me the best player I can be."
Another thing Pickens and Daugherty share is the experience of playing on teams which have won their first 24 games of a college season. Pickens' Eagles did it four years ago, while Daugherty and the current group of Eagles have accomplished the feat – and can go further on Thursday (Feb. 9) night at Kates Gymnasium against Lake Erie.
"I don't think we've talked a lot about it," said Pickens. "I think the teams look really different. People like to make a lot of comparisons, but I think they're very different teams. I try not to get in the comparison trap between the two. There's definitely valid comparisons between the two.
"Honestly, the goofiness of this team, I could not relate to as a player. I think if I was a player now, half the time I would be like, 'Guys, get your act together.' I wasn't much into the goofy side of it, but this team has a lot of fun playing. Each team's going to look different in that regard."
The similarities don't end there, as Pickens and Daugherty both have earned All-American, Academic All-American and Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player awards in their AU careers.
Daugherty knew comparisons would be made by fans and others when she decided to come to Ashland. That rolls off her back, and it wasn't going to be the deciding factor in whether or not she ultimately would be an Eagle.
"Kari played a factor in it, and I knew she was considering coaching at the collegiate level, and if she thought there was a possibility to come back to Ashland, it was a no-brainer for me," she said. "Not many people get a chance to play for a sibling at the collegiate level, and if I had gone to another GLIAC school, I would have seen her twice a year, whereas here, I get to see her every day.
"I loved the campus, and I had saw the success and the growth in her faith at AU, and it was an obvious decision where I needed to go."
The sisters' Christian faith is another bond they share. Their faith walks, however, are individualized, as well.
"We each have our own faith walk, and I think that's what makes it so real," said Daugherty. "We're both daughters of Christ, but our walks look differently and our paths look differently, so whenever we get together, it's easy for us to ask each other how you're doing spiritually. We pray for one another constantly, and it's nice to know that if I ever have a question or I need guidance, Kari's right there.
"I wanted, when I came to college, to make my faith my own."
"Andi has been a huge inspiration in terms of her faith," Pickens said. "Her growth, her making her faith her own has been really neat to see. Whenever we go to talk to each other, we're both in good spots from the communities that we have, and we can really enjoy the conversations that we get to have together as individuals, rather than a mentor-mentee relationship."
Pickens already has been a part of a national title-winning team. Daugherty is working to get there. All the bonds they share would make a potential 2016-17 national championship quite unique.
"Doing anything, whenever you get to share it with someone you love, makes it that much more special," said Pickens. "As a player, looking back, what we did, winning the first (team) national championship for the school, that was unbelievable. Getting to do it with Andi on the team would make it really special."
"I can't imagine my college career without Kari here, so it just seems natural that she would be part of this process," Daugherty said.