Before they were Tigers, Carly Heim and Tatyana Legette first saw their paths cross in the summer of 2015 when they were teammates in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game in Salina.
It was the start of a bond that formed one of the most successful tandems in Fort Hays State women's basketball program history.
"It's a bond that I can't really put into words," said Legette, fighting back tears.
The Hoxie product Heim and the Topeka native Legette have teamed to help the Tigers produce four straight 20-win seasons and have helped the Tigers achieve other unprecedented success during their standout careers.
The two will be recognized as part of senior day festivities when the No. 3-ranked Tigers wrap up the regular season against Pittsburg State at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Gross Memorial Coliseum.
"If you look at their four years, it's going to be four 20-win seasons, probably broke a dozen team records for winning and winning streaks and regionals and all those things," FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. "Three NCAA Tournaments — that will be more than any other class has ever done. Hopefully, they're still writing it as we go."
More than teammates, Heim and Legette are close friends and have lived together throughout their four years in the program.
"It's been awesome to live with her and grow together and go through a lot of things together throughout the years," Heim said. "I definitely think we're going to miss each other next year, but I'm sure we'll be OK."
"I love Carly and she's a great teammate," Legette said. "She's been with me through the ups, she's been with me through the downs and she's really supported me. She's been a great role model, not just for me, but for everybody on this team. I'm really going to miss playing with her, but I don't think it's going to end with us. We'll still see each other."
Legette said the connection between her and Heim translated over to the court.
"I just feel like we get each other and we understand each other when we play," she said. "We don't have to say much out there. She knows what I want to do and I know what she wants to do."
Unfortunately Legette's and Heim's time on the court together was cut short when Heim suffered every senior's worst nightmare, tearing her ACL on Feb. 2 against Nebraska-Kearney. She underwent surgery last week.
"I've kind of come to terms with it," said Heim, who was a rock for the Tigers at point guard. "It's getting a little harder as they get into the fun stuff — the MIAA Tournament and the big tournament. But just being there for them and being supportive and giving them what they need — whether it's advice on a play or how to defend somebody. I'm there to help them if they need me."
Heim and Legette reflected on their careers earlier this week.
"I've definitely matured a lot I'd say," Heim said. "I have a lot of close friends now obviously. I guess it's just fun hanging out with them every day and growing with them and seeing how they grow. I think that's going to be one of the parts that I miss most about basketball is just hanging out with them every day."
Legette, who is averaging a team-high 13.2 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Tigers, said she didn't know what to expect when she was first contacted by Fort Hays State.
"When my coach in high school, Steve Alexander, told me, 'Fort Hays reached out to you, they want you to come out for a visit,' " Legette said. "I said, 'Where's Fort Hays?' I didn't even know if that was in Kansas. I'd never heard of it. Never really been on the west side (of the state); the furthest I went was Salina for the KBCA All-Star game."
Legette credited current and past teammates for her development as a player.
"Paige Lunsford (now a Tigers' assistant coach), I give her a lot of credit for being physical and aggressive," Legette said. "In high school, I'd say I didn't really like to be pushed — or touched, really is the word. I didn't like to touch people and I didn't like them touching me, so I just tried to avoid all contact in the game as much as possible and try to use my athleticism to get around people. When you're in college ... everyone else is just as athletic and just as quick as you. You're going to have to use your body to get around people and be aggressive. I give a lot of credit to Randy (Whitney Randall), I give a lot of credit to Belle (Barbieri), they make me a lot better."
In Heim and Legette, Hobson said he couldn't ask for two better ambassadors for the program and university.
"They've been such good people for the program and they've been great representatives for the school," Hobson said. "Real good teammates. Both were having great years this year — T still is; unfortunately Carly's (season) got cut short by an injury. We hated to see that.
"But they've been great for our program. They've been good examples for our younger kids the last couple years. We just couldn't have asked for anything more from those two."
Tiger men to honor five seniors
The Fort Hays State men's basketball team, which takes on Pitt State at 4 p.m. on Saturday, will recognize five seniors — Brady Werth, Grant Holmes, Marcus Cooper, Kyler Kinnamon and Trey O'Neil.
"They've been a big part of our program for a long time," FHSU coach Mark Johnson said. "To a man, each one of them, you can look outside some of their talents and just look at the quality people they are. They've represented our program great.
"Very few times have I had to get on the senior group about having to work harder or play harder. They've been coachable guys. More important than their talents — their character and their work ethic have been really strong the whole time. I think that's what we're going to miss the most about them."