Published Sep 9, 2011 12:00 AM
Although there won't be any home games in Pauley Pavilion this year, Bruin basketball fans are still looking forward to the start of the 2011-2012 season. Why? They'll be catching their first look at David and Travis Wear, the highly recruited McDonald's All-American twins who transferred from the University of North Carolina last year.
Sit down with identical twins David and Travis Wear — the 6'10" McDonald's All-Americans from Huntington Beach, Calif., who will be playing basketball for UCLA this fall — and you'll discover subtle differences.
For example, Dave enjoys the occasional cookie, while Travis refuses to eat junk food of any kind. Dave also tends to be the more adventurous twin, perhaps by virtue of his being the older brother (by one minute). When they were kids, Dave would always be the first to try a new skateboarding trick or attempt to catch the biggest wave — in Travis' words, "the first one to do something stupid."
On this sunny July afternoon in the J.D. Morgan Center on campus, the twins actually don't look that much alike: Dave, in a black T-shirt, sports slightly longer hair than close-cropped Travis, who is wearing white.
But those are minor differences. In almost every other way, the Wear brothers are very much alike, from their love of the outdoors to their taste in TV shows (The Office, Entourage, Discovery Channel). After being hotly recruited by several schools upon their high school graduation in 2009, the duo — who had always planned to attend the same school — narrowed their choices down to UCLA and the University of North Carolina (UNC).
The Wears chose UNC and, as freshmen, averaged 10-12 minutes per game under Coach Roy Williams. But after a year in which they both admitted to a bit of homesickness, they decided to come back home and play for UCLA. The brothers sat out the 2010-2011 season per NCAA transfer rules, but now they're chomping at the bit to join their teammates in playing Bruin basketball.
Big Gets Bigger
The Wear twins bring versatility to UCLA's already impressive big-man game this season. They can play both power forward and small forward, although Dave will probably see more time at the small forward position.
Together with forwards Reeves Nelson (6'8") and Brendan Lane (6'9") and centers Josh Smith (6'10") and Anthony Stover (6'10"), the brothers are part of what could be the most formidable front line in the newly formed Pac-12 (newcomers Utah, Colorado and the former Pac-10 schools). Actually, UCLA Head Men's Basketball Coach Ben Howland believes that with the added depth provided by the Wear twins, the Bruins will have one of the best front lines in the country.
"There will be a lot of competition for minutes," he says. "We've got Josh and Reeves returning as starters from the NCAA tournament games, and with the addition of the Wears, it gives us a lot more depth and strength."
Impressed by their playing ability early on, the UCLA coaches started recruiting the brothers when they were 9th graders at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. Although he lobbied hard for them to come to Westwood, Howland learned in 2008 that the twins had decided to commit to UNC.
"It was devastating because we wanted them so badly, but that's part of this whole recruiting game," Howland says. "I think that when they got [to North Carolina], they realized how far away from home they were, with all their family and friends out here in California. It was such a different world, 3,000 miles from here."
Dave and Travis second that emotion. "I'd grown up here my whole life, and I thought it would be nice to move away and see how things were on my own. Go from bigger city to smaller city," Travis explains. "But I missed home a lot when I was actually there for a while."
It was culture shock, Dave agrees. "It was completely different, being in the small town of Chapel Hill," he says. "It was a learning experience and a lot of fun, but I'm definitely excited to be back and playing for UCLA, surrounded by friends and family and all the people who supported me. So I definitely have no regrets."
Howland notes that the brothers have dedicated themselves to becoming the best they can be. They attend yoga classes three times a week with their teammates; lift weights four days a week and practice basketball for seven; and, despite Dave's occasional cookie, are extremely serious about nutrition and eating right.
Leave It on the Court
Generally laid-back, the only time the brothers really argue is when they're competing, and their squabbles on the basketball court have served as a source of amusement to their teammates. "If we're on the same team and one of us makes a mistake, we get on each other," Dave says. "Probably more so than any coach or anyone else would, because we just expect so much out of each other."
Travis acknowledges, "Sometimes it can be a distraction to our teammates, because we just get so heated …" "We don't hear anything else," Dave finishes. "We're just focused on ourselves."
The on-court arguing is one of the few things Howland has had to talk to them about. "They're each other's biggest critic," he says, laughing. "They're always getting on each other, but in a good way. That's the one thing I've had to try to correct them on — to be supportive of one another."
Otherwise, the twins are as close as two brothers can be, according to their dad, Dave Sr. "They've been basically joined at the hip forever, and I don't think they'd have it any other way," he says. "If one of them isn't around, the other one always wants to know when the other one is coming back. And as soon as he gets back, it's 'What'd you do? Who'd you see? What happened?' They want a full play-by-play so they can feel like they were there with them. It's a pretty special relationship, that's for sure."
The brothers, both political science majors, are good students and often study together. When they're not working out or shooting hoops, they like to play video games ("Call of Duty" is a favorite) or hang out with their friends. Ferocious competitors on the court, they're nonpartisan in their social lives. Dave's girlfriend, Christina Marinacci, plays on USC's women's basketball team, while Travis' girlfriend, Kendall Bullock, is a Trojan song girl. Not that there isn't good-natured "rivalry" teasing between the brothers and their girlfriends, but it's all in fun.
Twice as Nice
The arrival of twins was completely unexpected for Dave Sr., 6'9" and a former basketball player, and his wife, Gloria, who is 5'9". The couple knew they would have big kids, but when Gloria became pregnant, she couldn't understand why she was so extraordinarily huge at only two months.
"Two of my girlfriends were pregnant at the same time as me. They were barely showing, and I looked like I was about five months pregnant," Gloria says. "I would go to my check-ups and look at my ultrasounds and my friends would look at theirs. They could see an outline of a baby, and mine was always a mess!"
About a month before her due date, Gloria wasn't feeling well. Since her regular doctor was on vacation, Gloria saw his partner, who grew concerned when he saw that she had grown two inches in the last week. He ordered another ultrasound.
"He said, 'OK, here's the head on the left and here's the head on the right,' " Gloria recalls. "And I said, 'What? My baby has two heads?' And the doctor said, 'Well, there are two bodies to go with those heads.' And I had them three days later."
The Wear boys naturally gravitated to sports and played several, including baseball, soccer, roller hockey and ice hockey. In fact, before they were hoops heroes they excelled at roller hockey, playing on the North American national championship team for the 10-and-Unders. Once they started growing, however — they hit 6'3" in the 7th grade — the twosome began to concentrate exclusively on basketball.
After a few years of playing in the National Junior Basketball league and in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), the Wears entered the prestigious basketball program at Mater Dei High School, run by Coach Gary McKnight. Dave and Travis played on McKnight's teams from 2006-2009, garnering an incredible record of 132 wins and 10 losses.
"They won a CIF championship in 2006 and two state championships in 2007 and 2008," McKnight remembers proudly. "David was two-time CIF Player of the Year, and both David and Travis were first-team All-CIF, All-County, All-League. They were co-MVPs of [Orange County's Trinity League]."
In fact, Dave and Travis are just two of five Mater Dei alumni on the UCLA team, along with Tyler Lamb, Blake Arnet and David Brown. And the twins still see their high school coach often, dropping in at Mater Dei and speaking to the elementary and middle school boys at McKnight's summer basketball camps.
When the Wears played for him, McKnight recalls how they would fool him at practice by switching jerseys. "I couldn't tell them apart," the high school coach says. "I had to put numbers on both sides of the jerseys, because if they were facing me and the numbers were on the back, I couldn't tell who was who. I'd yell 'David!' at one of them, and he wouldn't give me a response. Finally, he'd say, 'I'm Travis. That's David.' They would just mess with me all the time."
UCLA senior point guard Lazeric "Zeek" Jones, a transfer student from John A. Logan College in Carterville, Ill., arrived at the Westwood campus in summer 2010 along with the twins. But because he wasn't from the West Coast, Jones was one of the few players on the Bruin team who hadn't already met or played with the Wears. He had definitely heard of them, though.
"They were way cooler than I thought they'd be," Jones says, laughing. "They're real laid-back guys. They have a really good sense of humor, too." After a couple of weeks, Jones says, the brothers didn't even look alike to him anymore, and the differences in their personalities became evident: Trav, he says, can be more silly, while Dave is the serious one.
But when it comes to basketball, Jones says, both Wears mean business. "They can do pretty much everything I can do," the 6'1" point guard says. "They can shoot, they can dribble, they can pass. They're smart players and they're really aggressive. And if it comes down to it, they can go on the post with the big guys — like Reeves and Josh — and they can score."
With the Wears around, the team's practices can get pretty lively, Jones says. "They mess with me a lot! During practice, Coach will say, 'Zeek, don't worry about the twins!' because they'll be on the sidelines, barking at me. I can't miss a shot; I can't make a turnover because they're in my ear, trying to get into my head," he says, laughing ruefully.
"I do the same to them and make sure whenever they make a mistake, I'm on them. It's all good-natured — right afterward, we're smiling and hugging. And it's definitely made me better," Jones admits. "But I'm working hard to make sure I don't make a mistake, because I know as soon as I mess up, they're right there, in my ear. I have to turn around and see both of them!"