The Arizona Republic
ASU stars Harry, Ibis dish on supportive relationship
Sometimes personal relationships in college last. Often, they don’t.
It’s just the way things go when you’re young and life can take so many twists.
N’Keal Harry and Kianna Ibis can’t predict their future together. But they know that for two years and right now, they couldn’t be happier as a couple (thankfully without a uni-name). Both are All Pac-12 athletes for Arizona State – Harry in football, Ibis in women’s basketball – and stars on their teams.
They met in fall 2016, when Harry was a freshman and Ibis a sophomore, although she knew of him the year before when he still was at Chandler High School and her ASU teammates from in-state knew about the talented wide receiver.
“That was the first time I ever heard his name,” Ibis says. “I never thought,” it would turn into something magical that both credit with helping them to manage the mental stress that accompanies major college athletics – and the physical toll, like when Harry took a blindside hit from Colorado’s Drew Lewis on Oct. 6. He played in the second half despite a leg injury but was not himself.
“That made me so mad, I’m not going to lie,” Ibis says. “You don’t even know. I was watching it on TV, then the next play he’s not there. I knew he didn’t see him. When I was watching the play, I was like, ‘Where did that guy come from?’ I texted him right away, I hope you’re OK, what happened? It was very nerve wracking.”
Harry feels similar anxiety watching Ibis play basketball. She had major knee surgery as a senior at Omaha Benson High School and didn’t fully emerge as a force at ASU until her junior season, partly due to talented older players ahead of her.
“I’m pretty sure I’m more nervous than she is when she’s out there,” Harry says. “I’ve really learned to enjoy the game of women’s basketball. They’re very tal-
“I want to be that person that can bring the best out of her. She’s done that for me.” N’Keal Harry
ASU receiver, on Kianna Ibis
“He’s always been very supportive of literally everything I do.” Kianna Ibis
ASU forward, on N’Keal Harry
ented athletes, and I look at them no different than I look at myself. The amount of work they put in, everything they do. It’s exactly what we do. And a lot of the time, they don’t get the respect for that. Just seeing everything she’s gone through has helped me appreciate women’s sports as a whole.”
There was a lot to like about Ibis last season. The 6-foot-1 forward led ASU in scoring (12.9 ppg) including a career high 30-point game, the most by a Sun Devil since 2004. Her 27 points against Texas in a NCAA Tournament secondround game was third highest in school NCAA history.
That followed the 6-4 Harry’s sophomore season when he led the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game (87) while tying for the third-most catches (82) in school history. Through seven games this season, he is averaging 81.7 yards (42 catches, 572 yards) with six total touchdowns.
“If I wasn’t an athlete, maybe I’d be blowing her phone up like, ‘What are you doing?” Harry says. “But I understand because I know how many hours go into this and how much work. She understands the work I put in and the passion for this game.
“There’s been times where I’ve had a tough game. It’s been real hard for me to forget some of the bad things I did, and she’s always there telling me to keep going. She’s always had my back, and I really believe she always will.”
Said Ibis: “He’s always been very supportive of literally everything I do. It he didn’t get it (an appreciation of women’s sports), it would kind of be disrespectful.”
Added Harry, who averaged 21 points, 10 rebounds playing high school basketball: “I see stuff in her she doesn’t even see for herself. I tell her all the time how amazing of a player she really is. I want to be that person that can bring the best out of her. She’s done that for me, and I’ve been very serious about making sure she knows how good of a basketball player she really is.”
They agree on the details of their first official date – burgers and ice cream at Tempe Marketplace – and before that, Harry tested the waters by asking for her phone number through one of his teammates.
“Usually when you ask for their number, they text you,” Ibis says. “But I waited 2-3 days and still no text from him.” So she took the initiative to text first.
Within six weeks, Harry was sold on Ibis over the prolific ASU dating field.
“I was just attracted to her, but not just from a looks standpoint,” he said. “I immediately thought this could be the girl for me right away. I’m really serious about this.”
But their athletic success could send them in different directions, at least short term.
Harry, who turns 21 in December, is projected as a 2019 NFL first-round draft pick and currently rated No. 19 among overall prospects by ESPN’s Todd McShay. Ibis, 22 in November, is talented enough to play professionally overseas even if she doesn’t get a WNBA opportunity.
“I feel like no matter what, we’re ready to take the next step,” Harry says. “We care about each other enough to keep fighting no matter what circumstances we’re put in. We make be in completely different parts of the world. It’ll definitely be tough, but it’ll be another stepping stone we’re going to get over in our relationship.”
Added Ibis: “I know we’re going to support each other no matter where we go or what happens.”
“I care about her enough to” put in long-distance relationship work, Harry says. “Hopefully not, but whatever happens, happens.”
Until then, to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart’s character from “Casablanca,” they’ll always have Tempe.
The dating game
What is the first thing N’Keal would buy if he won the lottery?
Ibis (answering first with Harry out of the room): I think he would his grandma a house or get her back into retirement.
Harry: Probably something with video games.
Who is a better dresser?
Ibis: I know he’s going to say himself, but I’d say myself.
Harry: Me. Definitely, hands down. She definitely dresses well, but I’m fresh always.
What is N’Keal’s most irritating habit?
Ibis: Playing video games all the time. I’m a video gamer too, but he always is on the game and always playing with his friends. All the sports games, literally everything.
Harry: I wake her up a lot or I take her food. Something like that.
Who is better at basketball? Ibis: I know he’s going to say he is, but I feel like I am especially in season.
Harry: I’ve not lost anything basketball related to Kianna. Never.
What’s N’Keal’s favorite TV show?
Ibis: He barely watches TV. I know he likes “The Office.”
Harry: Lately, I’ve been watching “The Office” more than anything.
Who would survive longer in a zombie apocalypse?
Ibis: Probably him. I do not like zombies. I’m scared. I’d just give up.
Harry: Kianna. I’d give myself up for her.
What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve done around Kianna?
Harry (now answering first with Ibis out of the room): I don’t really feel embarrassed around Kianna. I feel pretty comfortable.
Ibis: Nothing is really embarrassing. We’re pretty comfortable with each other.
Who is most likely to be star of a bad reality show?
Harry: Me, definitely. She’s more the laid back, not get in trouble kind of person. I’m the more outgoing one so I would fit that role more than her.
Ibis: I’m going to say him. I keep everything calm. He’d be the crazy one.
What is Kianna’s favorite junk food?
Harry: That’s easy, ice cream. Ibis: Ice cream.
Most likely to forget something important?
Harry: Definitely me. Ten times out of 10.
Ibis: Him for sure. He almost forgot about this interview today.
What is Kianna’s favorite movie? Harry: We watch a lot of movies together, but I don’t think she’s told me a favorite one.
Ibis: “Moana” or “Coco.” I love animated movies.
Who is more likely to burn down the house when cooking dinner? Harry: Me, I can’t cook.
Ibis: Him. Even when it comes to Ramen noodles, I have to do it for him. Who is the better dancer? Harry: She gets most of her moves from me. She steals my moves and takes them back to the women’s locker room and has them thinking that’s her that makes up these dance moves. So I’d say me.
Ibis: He’s always dancing. I think he is a better dance. He does have more moves. He’s taught me a couple.