The only two American Athletic Conference women’s basketball players with at least 30 steals and 30 blocked shots this season will get the chance to square off early and often in the Saturday matinee at the XL Center.

Being disruptive defensive forces aren’t the only similarities shared by UConn’s Napheesa Collier and Wichita State’s Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage, who each include sign language among the ways they can communicate.

Collier has taken a class incorporating the ability to sign as she works toward graduation.

“I need it to fulfill one of my requirements and my grandma is an interpreter so I thought it would be really cool to learn that,” Collier said. “I do enjoy it.”

No classes were necessary for Lozada-Cabbage to learn how to communicate with the hearing-impaired. Her parents, Roddy Cabbage and Emma Lozada, are both deaf. They met at Galluadet University where her dad played soccer and football.

“It was my first language,” Lozada-Cabbage said. “I started when I was 6 months old, communicating with my parents. My older brother, he’s hearing but my parents said you need to sign to me and my younger brother.”

When she returns home, communication with her parents and siblings is done through sign language. It has given Lozada-Cabbage a chance to be an advocate for the deaf community.

“I really like being a part of the deaf community, we basically were raised in the deaf community and have a lot of deaf friends in Idaho,” Lozada-Cabbage said. “Both of my parents are teachers at the deaf schools in Idaho and in New Mexico so we’re always there for their events, basketball games, volleyball games, football games or whatever they had going on.”

When Lozada-Cabbage was a freshman, one of the Shockers’ home games included a deaf night promotion.

“That was my (introduction) to get into the deaf community in Kansas, so it was great,” Lozada-Cabbage said. “I met some really good people and want to keep bridging the gap between the hearing and deaf community and (help) everybody get involved.

“There was a good crowd of deaf people, my mom was able to come with one of her friends so they recognized my mom. It was really good, I got a lot of positive feedback from the deaf community and other people.”

Lozada-Cabbage takes great pride in the #askmewhyIsign campaign on various social media campaigns.

When she speaks to those in the hearing community about what it was like growing up in a deaf household, she lets them know it wasn’t really that different from their experiences.

“A lot of people think it’s a really bad disability; it’s really not,” Lozada-Cabbage said. “If you can’t hear, you can function just fine. My dad would go to the doctor’s office for an eye appointment and they would say, ‘You drove here?’ They can do anything but they can’t hear. Is it that bad? It’s really not, they just can’t hear, but nothing else is wrong.

“It’s just like any other household. I assume, instead of calling out, ‘Hey, Mom’ or ‘Hey, Dad,’ you have to go down and get their attention or turn the lights on and off. It wasn’t really a challenge, it was people being rude and not open-minded in trying to communicate with my parents because my parents don’t like when I have to interpret all the time, they like to do it themselves. Some people aren’t open-minded, they don’t even try. It’s easy to communicate if you try.”

Her teammates at Wichita State have done what they can to be open-minded, none more than senior forward Jaleesa Chapel, who has taken three semesters of sign language while at Wichita State. When Lozada-Cabbage’s parents make it to games, Chapel derives great pleasure in being able to take what she has learned and carry on a conversation with them.

“It’s great, it’s somebody else to talk to in my language,” Lozada-Cabbage said. “It makes my parents feel more involved, they can talk to somebody.”

The Wichita State campus is nearly 600 miles from her hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico, so her parents can’t make it to every game, but when they’re in the stands it’s not hard to spot them.

“My dad yells a lot, my mom gets excited and they yell a lot,” Lozada-Cabbage said. “They’re always cheering, they come to a couple of games and are very involved.”

When they are in the stands, their appearance doesn’t go unnoticed by Lozada-Cabbage’s teammates.

“They’re adorable,” said Rangie Bessard, the Shockers’ leading scorer. “I just love him. I can see her dad when I’m at the free throw line, he’s guiding the ball. Of course I have to focus on my free throw but I have to enjoy seeing them at games. Sometimes I’ll have this conversation, I won’t even know what they’re saying but I love having conversations because they’re genuine people. The deaf community definitely deserves the best because being that they’re impaired with their hearing, that doesn’t mean they aren’t people just like the rest of us. We have to make sure we dedicate a lot of things to the deaf community because they have given us so much with their positive vibes and energy. They’re such genuine people and you can see that Sabrina is the most genuine person you’ll ever meet and you see where she gets it from because her parents are like that.”; @NHRJimFuller on Twitter