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March 3, 2010

by Jon Cooper, Associate Editor

ATLANTA — Graduating seniors and teammates on the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team, Brigitte Ardossi and Tiffany Blackmon wouldn’t seem to have much in common, aside from, well, being graduating seniors and teammates on the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team.

Ardossi, a Melbourne, Australia, native, was inspired to play ball by watching her older brother, Josh, play lacrosse (he played at ACC rival Maryland). Blackmon, a Gastonia, North Carolina, native, had her hoop dreams kindled by watching older sister, Monica, play.

They ended up at Georgia Tech and on the team. The rest is history. As for their friendship, there’s no rhyme or reason for why it blossomed as it did. Sometimes those things just happen.

Don’t look in the numbers. While both are forwards, their individual results are diametrically opposed. Ardossi hasn’t missed a game in her four years on The Flats (her streak is up to 127 games, 79 as a starter) and she is an All-America candidate. Blackmon has played in five games this season, 65 total, and she made her first career start last Friday, on Seniors Day, her final home game.

Regardless, they will leave Tech as the winningest senior class in school history (87 wins and counting and a program-first four straight 20-win seasons).

Coach MaChelle Joseph credits Ardossi for much of the on-court success.

“I told the players the other day that Brigitte Ardossi is the best leader we’ve ever had in the history of our program,” said Joseph, following the Seniors Day win over North Carolina. “There’s no doubt about that.”

In turn, she credits Blackmon for Ardossi’s.

“She’s a great support system for Brigitte,” said Joseph. “They’ve been very close since they’ve been here. Tiffany has always gotten Brigitte’s back and vice-versa. I don’t know that Brigitte would be having the success she’s having without somebody like Tiffany supporting her.”

That friendship didn’t exactly form overnight, however.

“We actually didn’t start off being friends,” recalled Ardossi, with a laugh. “But we found a common bond. It’s something that every person has in their life when they come into a situation like this. You kind of need that person to lean on sometimes when you’re feeling down or to have a bit of fun with. Tiffany has really been there and been that kind of support for me.”

While their friendship may not have been instant — Ardossi hinted that her ultra-competitive nature, while never personal, probably didn’t make an endearing first impression — it is true, something that speaks volumes of Blackmon and her unselfishness, an attribute frequently mentioned in describing her.

Tiffany insists she wasn’t doing anything special.

“I just put myself in her shoes,” she said. “‘How would I feel if I was in another country away from my family and away from my friends? How I would want to be treated?’ I took Brigitte in under my wing and she’s like a sister to me now.”

Blackmon pointed to the support of her teammates as well as other friends, including good friend, fellow senior and forward on the men’s basketball team, Zachery Peacock — the two shared a few words and a hug following the North Carolina game — as her support system. That feeling of family is her overriding memory of her four years on The Flats.

“You might not remember the details of everything that happened but you can definitely remember the way people made you feel and I know here at Georgia Tech it always felt like family,” she said. “With the coaches, with our support staff, and especially with my teammates. I think the environment and the way it makes you feel is what I’m going to remember the most.”

That meant making Ardossi feel at home, especially during the holidays, an emotional time, especially being far from family. The Blackmons’ home became Ardossi’s second home.

That kindness was felt across the world by Brigitte’s dad, Nick, and mom, Leanne. Nick and Robert Blackmon, Tiffany’s father, both expressed gratitude to Coach Joseph and their thankfulness that Tech hoops brought their daughters together

“It was very important for Brigitte to have that relationship with Tiffany,” Nick said. “The way Brigitte talks about Tiffany and the friendship and the family, with Tiffany’s folks [Robert and mother, Lavern], the Christmas times, when we’re at home, not being with our daughter and knowing that Brigitte’s on the other side of the world and being able to spend the time with the Blackmons has been absolutely fabulous.”

“Brigitte has been to our home. We think the world of her,” said Robert. “I was telling [Brigitte’s] father how blessed the two of them are to have found that type of friendship with each other. I think it will last for a lifetime.”

They agree and although their time as teammates can now be measured in weeks, possibly even games, Ardossi and Blackmon know that their time as friends doesn’t have a time limit.

Both are planning to graduate in August, both with degrees in Management. There is no guarantee their paths will cross in the business world, but they’re sure of at least two times they will see each other again.

“She’ll be there at my wedding,” said Ardossi.

“Oh yes, definitely,” Blackmon nodded, smiling brightly. “Definitely.”

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