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House on the Hill: Colorado to College Hill

November 10, 2014

Anna Ptasinski already knew she loved Lafayette's campus, was convinced it was the right school for her academically and had a good feeling about the women's basketball coaches. She also had the support of her parents, John and Monica, and felt ready to be more than 1,700 miles away from home.

For many high school seniors, that would make the checklist -- and decision -- a done deal.

Anna, though, had one more person she was relying on to help her make her decision: big brother Joey, now a senior on the Lafayette men's basketball team.

"That meant everything," she said. "I wouldn't have gone anywhere else without him wanting me to come here. But I didn't want to overstep. I wanted him to be his own person and not have to worry about his little sister. That was my only hesitation."

From the minute Joey knew Anna was interested in Lafayette, he wanted her to be a Leopard. But when the two had their first heart-to-heart about Anna's then-pending college decision, he refused to tell her he was already picturing having her by his side, even if it would be for just one year.

So when she called from the family's home just outside of Denver, Colo., Joey was sure to tell his sister all the things he loved about Lafayette. Anna listened intently. But a little while later, Joey still hadn't told Anna he thought she should commit to Lafayette.

"When I was in high school, I got to make my own decision about college," Joey said. "Even though she had me to talk to, I wanted her to research everything like I had. I wanted to impact her decision, but I didn't want her to feel forced to go to school here. It wasn't easy to have that balance when I talked to her."

"I knew she'd be a great success academically and athletically here, and it was really exciting to hear she was super interested in the school and I didn't have to do a lot to convince her. She really just asked if I was OK with her coming to school here, and that was a simple, 'Yes.'"

When the time grew closer for Anna to finalize her destination for the next four years, she reached out to Joey again. That conversation solidified Anna's decision.

"I knew she'd be a great success academically and athletically here, and it was really exciting to hear she was super interested in the school, and I didn't have to do a lot to convince her," Joey said. "She really just asked if I was OK with her coming to school here, and that was a simple, `Yes.'"

The next day, Anna called head coach Dianne Nolan and committed to join the Lafayette community.

It's moments like that which make parents' hearts melt.

"My kids almost feel like twins who are four years apart in age," John Ptasinski said. "It's almost like the perfect setup, especially from a father's viewpoint. To have your daughter go so far away but to have your son there giving her advice and telling her things that are good or bad or giving her reads on people, it definitely feels good to have that."

"He's been right there for her," Monica Ptasinski added.

Specifically, Joey was there when Anna had a tooth knocked out during the second week of her first semester at Lafayette. Stressed, worried and in pain, Anna was relieved to be able to turn to Joey.

"I was freaking out," she admitted. "It hurt really bad, and l had an exam the next day. For me to see Joey and have him here with me, that put me at ease to be able to go and cry to him a little bit. He gave me some perspective and was so encouraging."

That's something Anna has loved so much about Joey. While they've always been competitive when it comes to basketball, Joey's desire to see his sister's game improve has superseded keeping track of point total comparisons or anything else you can find in a stat book.

This past summer, Anna and Joey, both of whom won state titles as juniors and seniors in high school/prep school, trained together every day at a gym a few miles from their parents' house where they did basketball drills, shot around, lifted weights and did cardio.

"He'd teach me some of his moves, and generally they were things I would not do in a game," Anna said. "He would teach me that one day, and the next day I'd be working on it for an hour. I had to make sure it was absolutely awesome, and he then would make sure I had those moves down. Of course he'd make the shot every time he tried it. I wanted to do it as perfectly as he would, and I would fail most of the time. But now I feel confident most of the time. He's a really good teacher."

What Anna is most comfortable doing on the basketball court with Joey is challenging him to a game of H-O-R-S-E. To Anna's surprise, Joey admitted those were much closer than a game of one-on-one.

"He would never, ever say that to me," Anna said. "He denies that. But no matter what, he knows I can't stop him one on one."

"I'll be honest," Joey said, "I think I make her better. I don't go easy on her, and hopefully that helps her out."

The one thing that couldn't be much better is their relationship off the court.

The bond between the two guards was evident to their parents from the time they were little and grew as they got older. Anna felt such a closeness to Joey when he was a teenager that when he got in trouble, Anna "would bawl her eyes out", Joey said.

"She might kill me for saying this, but she always wanted to be just like him," Monica Ptasinski said.

"She might kill me for saying this, but she always wanted to be just like him."

-- Monica Ptasinski, Mother of Joey and Anna

The siblings' connection is obvious to nearly anyone who meets them. Even before Anna arrived on campus, Nolan and men's head coach Fran O'Hanlon could tell how close Joey was to his little sister from the get-go.

"I would ask Joey how Anna was, and I could tell the way his eyes would light up and he would share with me exactly how she was doing," Nolan said. "He didn't just shrug and answer politely. You could tell there was a strong bond there."

"Joey is very caring and I could certainly see that," O'Hanlon said. "He used to talk about her when she was playing in high school. He was very proud of her, and he said she's a really good shooter."

One thing Joey has put the stop sign on is Anna dating anyone on the men's basketball team. Next year, once Joey's days at Lafayette are done and he's (hopefully) in medical school, Anna is free to go out with whomever she chooses, even on O'Hanlon's team.

"We talked about it in a very civil manner," Joey said. "She accepted it and understood my viewpoint."

Although John and Monica, who will leave their Colorado home to spend time traveling with Joey and Anna from Nov. 19 to Dec. 10, will get to take advantage of their children being at the same school for only one year, Monica wouldn't trade the situation in for the world.

"I never would have dreamed this," she said. "I can't put into words how lucky we feel that they are together. It's just a huge blessing to us."

By Mandy Housenick | House on the Hill