Being a Man of the 90s, I'm not about to tell you that Mikki Kane-Barton is, how do I say this, gorgeous. I'm above all that. I'm an enlightened kind of guy. I've learned that there is more to a woman than looks. I've learned that a woman has a brain and feelings and a jump shot, too.
So when I see Mikki playing basketball for the University of Utah, I see immediately that she is one of the best looking, er, I mean best female collegiate players in the country. Look at the way she blocks out under the boards, I say to myself. Look at that, um, form.Still, if - IFFFFF - I were to notice such things, I'd probably tell you that she's got green eyes that seem to change color naturally to match her clothing, that she has a sly crooked smile and clear olive skin, that she doesn't wear one stroke of makeup, and that she's 6 feet of statuesque (at least that's what someone told me).
But, as I said, none of these things is important to me because I'm an objective, professional journalist. Of course, there are those who aren't so objective - some typical, disgusting, slobbering males who couldn't care less that Kane-Barton starred for the West team in the Olympic Festival or that she could play professionally in Europe after graduation or that during her career she has shot 51 percent from the field and last season averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds per game. Or that after two games this season she already has 66 points - exactly half of her team's points - and 22 rebounds.
No, all they see is the looks. Which, frankly, Mikki has grown accustomed to. Even other female athletes at the U. are dazzled by her exotic good looks. "She's gorgeous AND she's tall," say the gymnasts, who are only gorgeous and short. Once Mikki was hanging out at a pool dressed to kill in a swim suit when a professional model urged her to try modeling. She hears that line routinely. Imagine her strutting down the runway, 6 feet tall, 6 percent body fat - the world's first 160-pound model.
It won't surprise you that interest in her sport seems to perk up among the male population whenever she's on the court. They considered it a tragedy when she married last summer (WARNING, GUYS: her husband is 6-foot-4, 200-and-something and a former professional baseball player, and he does some serious eavesdropping in the stands during games, although where he gets off complaining I don't know. He first fell in love with her while she was, uh-huh, playing hoops.
Guys sit in the stands during games and hold up MIKKI signs. They whistle, they cry, "Hey, No. 15!" One smitten fan sent her a three-page letter, basically applying for her courtship. The stat crew at the University of Wyoming went into mourning when her marriage was announced last season.
"Everywhere we go people talk about how beautiful she is," says one Ute official.
She's a highlight film just sitting on the bench.
Typically, foreign crowds shout insults at the opposing team's bench, but somehow they never rip on Mikki. What are they going to pick on? Hey, if you gained 40 pounds and grew a moustache you wouldn't be so beautiful!
The exotic beauty comes from a full blooded Hawaiian father, Norman, and a Caucasian mother, Vicki, who passed along their own handsome features to their seven children. Michelle, the third child, was given the Hawaiian middle name of Pualani, which means Heavenly Flower, but everyone just called her Mikki.
She was never interested in dancing and cheerleading and other typically feminine pursuits. Norman, a former college football player, coached the school basketball teams in Idaho Falls, and Mikki, a barefoot tomboy, began hanging out at the gym with him at an early age - "a little gym rat," she says.
To make a long story short, she was recruited for three sports - Washington and BYU wanted her for volleyball, Nebraska wanted her for track and Utah wanted her for basketball, her first love. By the time she finishes her collegiate career this winter, she will rank among the Utes' all-time leaders in scoring, rebounding, blocks, broken hearts and sighs.
Don't let the beauty fool you. She has a fierce streak of competitiveness. She can talk some serious trash with her opponents, and she has an an R-rated mouth ("I'm terrible," she says, "but I'm working on it."), which has earned her at least one technical.
Before the start of the season, Mikki told her teammates that she wanted to be an All-American, and that she needed their help to do so. So far, she's gotten little help, but she's produced All-America numbers anyway.
By now, even the guys in the stands can see that Mikki can really play the game. She just happens to be gorgeous, too.
At least, that's what I'm told.