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Penn seniors Geoff Owens and Diana Caramanico have watched their relationship, and their basketball careers, flourish in their time together at Penn. (Ben Rosenau/The Daily Pennsylvanian)

Up there, on the wall of the locker room tucked underneath the empty stands of the Palestra, the message reads in blue and red letters, "Staying Together is Success." And below, on a red couch a few feet in front of that wall, two of the most successful players in the history of Penn men's and women's basketball are sitting side by side -- but not too close together. To the right, Geoff Owens, still in his jersey and exhausted from the evening's practice, leans back against the cushions and extends the pair of long legs that make up a good portion of his 6'11" frame. Two feet to his left, Diana Caramanico sits in grey sweats with her knees bent, leaning against the armrest and away from both the back of the couch and her boyfriend of two-and-a-half years. Looking at the large gap of red seat between them, it seems almost as if the couple doesn't want to be next to each other at all. That perception quickly changes, however, when the pair momentarily turns toward one another, lock eyes and flash each other a nervous-but-reassuring smile. They definitely don't mind each other. They just mind the situation. These two Quakers stars -- senior captains of their respective squads and go-to players who toss out quotes to reporters as easily as they toss up five-foot bank shots -- these two notoriously humble people are nervous because they've been asked to talk about something they've never been asked to talk about before: their relationship with each other. Basketball is life for Geoff Owens and Diana Caramanico. Basketball, then, is naturally what brought them together. They met during Diana's recruiting trip to Penn in the spring of 1996, when Geoff was an up-and-coming freshman center for the Quakers and Diana was a high school star at nearby Germantown Academy. They became fast friends, but it was adversity that made their relationship grow when Diana started her career with the Quakers. Before the 1997 season even began, Geoff was diagnosed with hypertension, and the doctors told the devastated big man that he was going to have to red shirt while he recovered. "I had a lot of difficulties at that point because I wasn't sure if I'd ever play again," Geoff said. Luckily, his good friend Diana was there for support. "The night I actually found out that I probably wasn't going to play for the whole season, we went out," Geoff said, looking across the couch at Diana. "We just wanted to grab some ice cream just to make me feel better, but we ended up just sitting and talking for a while." That uplifting late-night ice cream run brought the pair to a new level, and they continued to grow closer as Diana supported Geoff through the hardship of not playing, while he encouraged her through what would be an Ivy League and Big 5 Rookie of the Year season. Naturally, their teammates gave both a hard time about the budding romance they saw between the modest pair -- even though Geoff and Diana maintain they didn't start going out until the end of that school year. "It used to be bad," said Diana, who was easily embarrassed during her early days with Geoff. "I couldn't even go near him or even look at him without someone making a comment." Geoff received the same sort of treatment from his teammates. "Definitely at first, I heard my teammates all the time," he said. The teasing didn't keep the two away from each other, though, and over the summer the now-official boyfriend and girlfriend ("I hung up on my parents after I told them because I was so nervous," Diana said) stayed on Penn's campus to help each other train for the upcoming year. Practicing together is a habit they still maintain -- it's one of the many ways these two have helped each other in their basketball careers over the past three years. While the two centers never play one-on-one against each other -- Diana, who's 6'2", said that she'd never be able to get the ball over his head without him blocking it -- they do spend a lot of time working on their skills in the paint. "Sometimes I'll just do post moves against him and he just sticks his hands halfway up so it approximates someone who is 6'5" instead of 6'11"," Diana said. "It helps me to focus on scoring and not focus on where the defense is." Geoff sees skills in his girlfriend that he wishes he could pick up in his game. "I'm so impressed with her game," he said. "She has such a knack for scoring, where scoring is my weak spot." Diana also sees aspects of Geoff's game that she would like to bring into her repertoire. "He blocks shots and he's always in the right place at the right time and doesn't turn the ball over," she said. "I wish I could pick up some of that." This shared admiration for each other's game allows Geoff and Diana to give each other a unique form of support when they feel they haven't played well. "She'll come to me and say, 'I played lousy,' but she'll have 16 or 17 points," Geoff said. "And I'll be like, 'Jeez, I wish I'd have a night like that!' And I'll tell her, 'That's great, you had 16 or 17 points, good job!" It's this kind of perspective from someone outside of their immediate team but who still understands the sport that makes the relationship between Geoff and Diana so reciprocal. "There's just so much understanding there," Geoff said. "You can take a step away from your team, [from] yourself and try to figure out what you need to work on or what you need to do to make yourself better. I think we've both been in a lot of similar situations so we can both help each other." And it's this willingness to support each other through different situations that has the nervous pair calming each other with looks and smiles to get through the uncomfortable interview session. There on that locker room couch, just like in basketball and their three-year relationship, they stay together and succeed. And when the session concludes, as they both get up off the hotseat, Diana sends some words along with another smile to Geoff. "That wasn't so bad."

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