Double Trouble

There's an identity crisis in women's basketball as an outbreak of identical twins has hit several of the nation's top teams
February 01, 1993

Theresa Kelly, awriter for Georgia Bulldog Magazine at the University of Georgia, was veryspecific when she asked assistant sports information director Tim Hix to summonone of the Lady Bulldog stars from the Georgia locker room for an interviewafter a recent game against Arkansas. "Make sure it's Ca-mille," shesaid. Shortly thereafter, senior forward Camille Lowe's identical twin sister,Miriam, a reserve, emerged and sat down across from Kelly, who asked her,"How do I know for sure that you're Camille?"

"Miriam has alower voice," said Miriam, truthfully.

Thus reassured,Kelly asked Lowe questions for 10 minutes. But before Miriam had the chance todeliver her big line—"Lowe everything to Miriam"—Hix's conscience gotthe better of him and he told Kelly she was the victim of a prank.

Opportunities forthis kind of treachery are everywhere in Division I women's basketball thesedays. Would you trust yourself—or anyone else—to tell the difference betweensophomore identical twin blurs Falisha and LaKeysha Wright of San Diego Statewhen they're driving down the court in matching red-white-and-black uniforms?Quick, which Kuziemski of North Carolina State just made that three-pointer:Jenny or Krissy? It's hard to tell, isn't it, especially when their numbers, 41and 14, respectively, are so maddeningly mirrorish.

Virginia seniorsHeather and Heidi Burge, listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world'stallest (6'4¾") female identical twins, were kind enough to adopt radicallydifferent playing styles and nominally different hairstyles, but does that helpwhen the action gets thick in the paint? (Excuse me, but did that jersey readHEA. BURGE or HEI. BURGE?) At Georgia, where there are no names on the players'backs, you have to remember uniform numbers or look for the tape aroundCamille's right knee.

All theabove-mentioned pairs are playing for highly regarded teams. Take a quick scanof the less competitive schools and you'll find Debbie and Laura Barnes atRichmond, and Amy and Beth Dorfmeister at American.

Now, on the men'sside, we have...we have...well, in Division I this year are the Wightmans,Shawn and Sean, of Western Michigan (page 56), and Jon and Joe Ross, who playfor Notre Dame. Seems a bit sparse, especially when you consider that identicaltwin boys are born at the same rate as identical twin girls (two births perthousand).

What has causedthis curious gender inequity? Theories do not abound. "I have no idea,"says Georgia coach Andy Landers, echoing just about everyone who has given thematter two minutes of thought. And Landers has even had the opportunity tothink about it before: In the late '70s he coached Bernadette Locke (now anassistant coach for the Kentucky men's team) and her twin, Juliet, at RoaneState Community College in Harriman, Tenn.

For whateverreason—perhaps certain recruiters' moons are locked up in the house ofGemini—we have a convergence of twin talents in four prominent women'sprograms. So, what can these eight players teach us about the powers and perilsof twinship?

•Anyone but a refcan be fooled.
When the Lowes arrived on the Georgia campus from Macon, Ga., in 1989 with thesame loping run, the same infectious laugh and the same machine-gun style oftalking, Landers realized that some of his assistant coaches were going to havetrouble distinguishing one from the other. (Landers himself had no problem, heclaims.) To keep confusion to a minimum, he had Camille wear large black spotson the front, the back and the sides of her practice jersey. One day Camillewas at the other end of the court with her body turned in such a way thatLanders couldn't see any spots. "I yelled, 'Camille, is that you?' " hesays. "She stopped and looked down at her chest for a spot. And then shenodded."

Well, everybody isallowed a double take now and then. Usually, though, it's an opposing player.Each of these pairs of twins can remember times when an opponent's confusionled to an easy basket. But pulling one over on the refs is much tougher andrequires both twins' full cooperation, which, in the case of the Burges, may berarer than a sixth personal foul. Heather and Heidi live apart, have differentfriends, wear different clothes and sometimes exhibit very different outlookson life—in the team media guide, Heidi notes that her craziest ambition is tosky dive, while Heather lists a desire to "detassle corn in Iowa." Trygetting either one of the Burges to sacrifice one of her personal fouls for theother. Earlier this season, in a game against Vanderbilt, just such anopportunity arose. "I was behind this girl and Heidi was in front of her,and the ref called a foul, but I thought the ref meant Heidi,..." beginsHeather, the only serious All-America candidate among the twins.

"I wasn'tanywhere near her," corrects Heidi, Virginia's sixth-leading careerre-bounder, with 6.23 a game through last weekend. "And the ref says,That's a foul on number 30 [Heather's number].' And Heather shouts, 'I didn'tfoul, that was my sister!' I couldn't believe it."

•If you're a coachlooking to recruit team chemistry, you're two fifths of the way there.
The Burges, the Kuziemskis, the Lowes and the Wrights were all determined to goto college together, and all made that clear to interested schools. Mostcoaches, they found, stayed interested. "If you can get two great playersinstead of one, why not?" says San Diego State coach Beth Burns."Everybody told me Falisha and LaKeysha wouldn't come 3,000 miles [fromPaterson, N.J.]. I knew they would, because their most important significantother was each other."

Growing up in aneighborhood that was beset by drug dealers, the Wrights always stuck closetogether. Their father, Brady, encouraged them to start playing basketball inthe first grade as a way of staying off the streets. They relied on each othereven more after their mother died when they were in the eighth grade. Fouryears later, they couldn't imagine going to different colleges. "We hangout with different people," says Falisha, ""but I always want toknow where she is." As long as she's on the court, that's not a problem.Both Wrights start at guard for the Aztecs, and whoever gets the ball firstbecomes the point guard and knows that her sister will be filling up alane.

N.C. State coachKay Yow is a veteran twin observer, having had Kaye and Faye Young with theWolfpack in the late 1970s. "I love coaching twins," says Yow."Each is the other's biggest fan, and I like encouragers. In a game, if onegets trapped, even if she can't see anyone else, she'll know where her twin is.The downside is that if one gets upset or hurt, the other is affected, too. Itamazes me how connected they are."

Indeed, Jenny andKrissy Kuziemski, seniors at N.C. State, are as close as two people can be.They share clothing, friends, a room and a car. They take the same classes inthe same major, communications, and have nearly identical grades (Jenny has a2.9 grade point average, Krissy a 2.8). And on the court, where Krissy startsat point guard and Jenny comes off the bench, they play an eerily similargame.

But people whoknow them well say they have distinct personalities. Says the twins' roommateand teammate, Danyel Parker, "Jenny is more talkative, and Krissy is morereserved." Says Yow, "They are very different people. Krissy is moreoutgoing."

•Sisterly affinityhas many expressions.
The Burges often argue, the Wrights frequently disagree, and the Lowes havebeen known to engage in an occasional fistfight. But even twins who try tostick their sisters with an extra foul can appreciate the sentiment in anepisode between identical twin sisters back in 1984. Pamela and Paula McGee hadstarred for USC on national championship teams in 1983 and '84. Pamela made the'84 Olympic team, but Paula didn't. After Pamela received her gold medal in LosAngeles, she found Paula in the crowd; Pamela took the medal from her own neckand placed it around Paula's.

"That'sgreat," says Heather Burge. "She probably realized that without hersister, she wouldn't be where she was."

PHOTOJIM GUND/ALLSPORT USAAn abundance of redundance: The top twins in the game are (from left) Georgia's Camille and Miriam Lowe, Virginia's Heather and Heidi Burge, San Diego State's Falisha and LaKeysha Wright, and N.C. State's Krissy Jenny Kuziemski. PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER[See caption above.] PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH[See caption above.] PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER[See caption above.] PHOTOJIM GUND/ALLSPORT USAHeather Burge rates singular praise as the most talented twin.

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