- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2010

DURHAM, N.C. | The brackets for the 2010 NCAA men’s basketball tournament were announced Sunday, and the first round is set for Thursday. But what about siblings? And rivalry?

Miles Plumlee refuses to let his younger brother get the best of him at Duke University. He’s even determined to top any dunks Mason throws down in practice.

“Even if I’m not thinking about it, I get a little feeling in my gut,” he said. “It’s always been there.”

Sibling rivalries like the Plumlees’ are playing out in several Division I men’s programs. They’re often intensely competitive, adding a feisty sense of family to the programs during a long season.

“If you can have the same bond as the brothers have for the rest of your team, you can really be special,” said Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy, who coaches sons Michael and Logan in Natchitoches, La. “Even though brothers get after one another at some times, you don’t let someone else get after your brother.

“If your team takes that same attitude, then you’re fighting for everybody.”

The list of schools with brothers playing together includes Akron (Brett and Chris McKnight), Brown (Matt and Peter Sullivan), Clemson (Trevor and Devin Booker), North Carolina (David and Travis Wear), Oregon State (Josh and Seth Tarver) and South Dakota State (Garrett and Griffan Callahan).

Top-ranked Kansas has two sets: Sophomore twins Marcus and Markieff Morris, and freshmen Xavier and C.J. Henry.

Some have a clear big brother-little brother pecking order like the Bookers or the McConathys, with Michael the Demons’ senior starting point guard and Logan a junior reserve.

Other siblings wind up on the floor together or competing for playing time.

The Sullivans start at Brown, while the Plumlees and Wears have similar styles, meaning they have played stretches together and then found themselves cutting into each other’s minutes. That dynamic was on display during the Blue Devils’ recent win against the Tar Heels, with Miles starting but Mason logging twice as many minutes with a significant contribution off the bench.

David Wear saw more minutes when Travis was sidelined with a sprained ankle.

As for the Jayhawks, Marcus Morris has emerged as one of Kansas’ top scorers, and Markieff is a key front-court reserve, while Xavier Henry is one of the nation’s top rookies and C.J. is a walk-on seeing spot duty.

While things have gone smoothly at Kansas, coach Bill Self said brothers can adversely affect a team’s chemistry in cases when one slips into a lesser role.

“I do think [brothers] can be huge assets to each other,” Mr. Self said. “But I also think they could be detriments if one is happy and the other is not happy, where misery loves company.”

He also knows that boys will be boys. The Morris twins offer a reminder each time they swap jerseys in practice, a prank they’ve attempted several times.

At North Carolina, coach Roy Williams recalled a practice earlier this year in which the 6-foot-10 Wears — believed to be the first twins to play for UNC — were guarding each other and ended up in a heap under the basket. Mr. Williams said the two were “yapping at each other” before they even hit the floor.

“They try to coach each other more than Coach can even coach them,” North Carolina senior Deon Thompson said. “Coach doesn’t really get too mad about it because he knows they’re brothers and they’ve been doing it for 18 or 19 years. I don’t think there’s going to be any stopping them now.”

It doesn’t stop even when there’s no question who’s clearly the first option. Clemson senior Trevor Booker has started every game of his career and is the focus of the Tigers’ offense, while Devin is a freshman reserve.

Yet even as Trevor helps his younger brother adjust to college, he’s quick to promise that Devin won’t top him on the court “until after I leave.”

“It’s a great experience, just to show him how it’s done,” he said. “I know he’s probably watching me closer than anyone else, so it’s good to have him on the team, teaching him things.”

Duke’s Plumlees are separated by 18 months and grew up arguing about everything from Fruity Pebbles cereal — “He’d take half the box in one sitting,” Mason griped — to who wore whose clothes or who had the remote control last. That carried over to Durham, where they had several pickup-game spats over the summer that heated up enough for their Duke teammates to step in.

They didn’t plan to be at Duke together. Miles originally committed to Stanford but changed his mind when Trent Johnson left for Louisiana State. The Blue Devils’ 6-foot-10 sophomore has started nearly every game upfront this season. His year of experience helped prepare Mason, a freshman who also stands 6 foot 10 inches.

Both could get the chance to pass on their Duke experience to a third brother, Marshall. He is a 6-11 high school junior being recruited by the Blue Devils, among others. If he signs with Duke, he would arrive in time for Miles’ senior season and give the Blue Devils a trio of Plumlees — a first in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“When you’re working in the driveway when you’re young, you’re dreaming of playing at a big college, the NBA and all that,” Miles said. “But we never thought we’d be on kind of the same journey together.”

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