SAN ANTONIO — Abi Olajuwon has high heels that you’ll never see for sale in the mall. And it’s not just because she needs sizes carried in few stores. It’s because the Oklahoma center bought most of her size 15 stilettos back home in Southern California.
"Funny thing is ... they always had heels in L.A. because of so many drag queens,” she said. She smiled, but rest assured, she wasn’t kidding. "I’ve had great heels.” Being a tall gal has plenty of advantages — just ask the teams at the Women’s Final Four this weekend in San Antonio. All of them have a starting center who is at least 6-foot-4, a post player who has been central to their postseason success. Stanford’s Jayne Appel, Connecticut’s Tina Charles, Baylor’s Brittney Griner and Olajuwon loom large over this Final Four. Their size will be crucial to their team’s survival. Their height will be vital to battle each another. But being a tall gal isn’t always such a positive. Sometimes, it can be downright rough. "It was growing up when you’re in junior high and kind of uncomfortable, taller than every boy in your class,” Appel said. "Growing up, it was definitely a challenge, finding jeans and stuff like that. "But now, I embrace it.” Maybe that’s because Appel has found clothes that fit her 6-foot-4 frame. "The key is once you find the source of where to go for each thing, then you’re OK,” she said. "I know where to go for my jeans. I know where to go for my shoes. Once you find that, then you’re fine. "My mother... she has a bunch of hidden sources. I don’t know where she finds them, but she does.” National retailers often aren’t the answer for tall women. Sooner reserve center Lyndsey Cloman found that out at a young age. She hit her first growth spurt as a 4-year-old, and it wasn’t long before she was well on her way to the stout 6-foot-3 frame that she has today. "My mom, I think she always felt bad because all these little girls would wear all these cute things and I was already in women’s sizes,” Cloman said. "She’d try so hard when I was little. We’d go to Kmart, and she’d be like, ‘Does this work? I don’t know what to do.’ ” But the big-box stores and the mall retailers aren’t always a wash for tall gals. Cloman now finds many of her size 12 shoes at Payless — "Cute, not expensive,” she said — and she buys jeans from the Buckle. "You buy them extra, extra long so you can keep washing them and then they’ll be the perfect length,” Cloman said.