From Croatia to Connecticut, Muhl sisters will face each other on the court for the first time

Updated Dec. 5, 2023 11:22 a.m. ET

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — UConn point guard Nika Muhl says she and Ball State guard Hana Muhl used to fight about almost everything while growing up together in Croatia.

But the sisters from Zagreb, now living on the other side of the Atlantic and more than 800 miles apart, have become so close as adults that they have each other's first initial tattooed behind their left ears.

Nika, 22 and the older of the pair by just over two years, has another tattoo with Hana's nickname “Baby M” on her left hand.

The pair text or video chat with each other almost every day.


“I feel like that distance made us so much closer, which is just kind of like a weird thing to say, you know,” Nika said. “I felt like that would have distanced us, but it definitely brought us so much closer.”

The two, who played together for years on the same club team and national teams in their home country, will face each other Wednesday when Hana's Cardinals (6-1) visit Nika's No. 17 Huskies (4-3) in Storrs.

“We have never played against each other, except like, one on one, you know, in the driveway,” Nika said. "This is going to be the first ever official time we’re going to play against each other.”

Their parents, Darko and Roberta Muhl, are flying in from Croatia. Darko said it will tough to be in the stands because he is usually too nervous and waits at least a day to view their games over the Internet.

The father said his two girls could not have had more different personalities growing up. Nika was messy, aggressive, emotional, always taking charge. Hana was much more organized, easy going and analytical, he said.

But both are driven, competitive and love basketball, he said.

“Both of them, as they are over there, are independent,” he said. “And both of them have grown up a lot over the last couple of years.”

He said he and his wife, fearing injuries, tried to steer his daughters away from basketball and into other sports. Hana said she was going to be a swimmer until she watched her big sister playing basketball.

“Honestly, since growing up, she has always been my role model,” Hana said. “I’ve never said that to her because, not that I didn’t want admit it, but you know, it’s just like something I kept for myself all this time. But it’s true. I told her that recently. It was after one of her games when they lost, but I just was so proud of her the way she played and like, kept her head up and everything.”

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said he can't remember ever coaching a sister against sister. The closest he came was when he tried to schedule a game for former Husky star Katie Lou Samuelson against sister Karlie and Stanford. But that didn't work out.

“Nika pushed for this game,” Auriemma said.

Hana said Nika has consistently helped her with the struggles of living overseas and playing DI college basketball, assuring her she had the skills, even when she thought she couldn't play at this level.

But both Muhl sisters said they will try their hardest to get the better of the other on Wednesday, reverting to the relationship they had as children.

“She will definitely trash talk, that's the way she is," Hana said. “I'm expecting it. I'm ready for it. I have some words that I will give her back.”

Nika said all that chatter will be in Croatian. And what words should fans be listening for?

“I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say,” Hana said.


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