Tuesday, December 20, 2011

UCLA's Wear brothers are striving siblings


UCLA's Wear brothers are striving siblings

Identical twins Travis (#24) and David (#12), who have shared a basketball journey as well as a close bond, are filling bigger roles for the Bruins than they might have expected.

By Baxter Holmes
The Los Angelinos Times
8:08 PM PST, December 19, 2011

A week ago, David Wear left the downtown Los Angeles hotel where UCLA was staying to find himself a snack.

But he returned to jarring news: His identical twin brother and fellow Bruins forward, Travis, had been rushed to a nearby hospital with a rapidly inflamed skin infection on his left foot.

The following night, Travis was still in a hospital bed, pumped full of antibiotics, while David took the court against Eastern Washington at the Sports Arena.

But something was off, David said, and the 6-foot-10 sophomore played like it, scoring just seven points while missing six of eight shots.

"That was the first time, really, he wasn't there playing or on the sidelines in a game I was playing in," David said.

Travis was released two days later, but wasn't cleared to play in UCLA's next game, so he sat behind the team bench.

And with his brother nearby, David didn't look off or feel strange at all.

In fact, he played his best game of the season, scoring a career-high 15 points against UC Davis in an 82-39 win.

"There's just an unspoken connection," said their father, David Sr.

It's hard not to feel connected when you have spent nearly every waking moment together and sleep just feet apart, as the brothers have done their entire lives.

They've also shared a long journey, one that began in their hometown of Huntington Beach, led to prep powerhouse Santa Ana Mater Dei, where they won two state championships, and continued with a pit stop with the famed North Carolina Tar Heels before each transferred to UCLA in May 2010.

But this season, they're both playing larger roles for the Bruins (5-5) than either imagined, thanks to center Joshua Smith's continued conditioning issues and the recent dismissal of forward Reeves Nelson.

"And you're talking about two guys that didn't play in a year and a half," said former Bruins star Don MacLean, who works as an analyst on the team's radio broadcasts.

Each sat out last season in accordance with NCAA rules after transferring from North Carolina, where neither really played much when they were freshmen.

"I haven't played major minutes in a game really since high school," Travis said.

As such, they're rusty, but Travis' foot injury, which was related to his snorkeling accident in Hawaii last month, and a concussion David suffered before the team's trip to Hawaii have slowed their progress.

"Their problem is the health things," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said.

Howland said they'll gradually improve and while they look similar, they play differently.

For instance, Howland said Travis has more post moves, and David is a better rebounder and outside shooter.

Out of high school, Scout.com ranked David as the 26th best player nationally, Travis No. 27.

Now that they're at UCLA, their statistics are close: Travis averages 10.6 points per game, David 8.0.

But their statistics have always been almost identical since they began playing basketball at 11, shortly after giving up roller hockey.

In fact, it's hard to find how the two brothers are different, aside from David's slightly longer hair. "If they really wanted to trick people, they could get the same haircut," said guard Lazeric Jones.

Smith, UCLA's center, said he has mistakenly identified them more than once, even on the court, and their father admitted doing the same long ago. To help, he made David wear a lower jersey number; he's worn No. 12 since. (Travis wears No. 24.)

The only time they're not together, they said, is when they're with their girlfriends, who both attend and are roommates at USC.

Aside from that, they're inseparable.

So, how else are they different?

David: "Our attitudes. I'm a little bit more serious."

Travis: "I'm more silly, but at the same time I might be more responsible."

David: "No, it doesn't work out like that."

Travis: "What?"

David: "We're both pretty responsible, but when it comes down to it, I have the final say on things."

Travis: "No, you don't."

After much discussion, they found an example: the closet at their apartment.

Travis: "I have my stuff folded up nice, and then your side is just organized piles."

David: "Yeah, but it's still organized."

Travis: "Yeah, but it's organized in piles."

Then, almost in unison, they said, "There are subtle differences."

Subtle indeed.

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