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Oakton’s Coyer twins hope to play in college as a package deal

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Caroline Coyer is the flashier player, a 5-foot-9 slashing point guard with a quick step. Her twin sister Katherine is a punishing 5-10 defender with a relentless motor.

Caroline is outgoing. Katherine is more introspective, content to let her sister do most of the talking.

But the similarities between the two 17-year-old juniors at Oakton High School far outweigh their differences. They have the same circle of friends, take most of the same classes, share a car, clothes and shoes. They say they’ve never spent more than nine days apart — “and we still talked on the phone,” said Katherine.

Now they are both being recruited by big-time college basketball programs as two of the best players in the Washington region. And for prospective Division I coaches, the fraternal twins have made a pact: They must play together at the same school.

Caroline, who has won more basketball accolades than her sister and has attracted more interest, insists she plays better when Katherine is on the court with her. So in her mind, if you take me, you have to take my twin sister, too.

“Both of us are at our full potential when we’re playing together,” Caroline said. “And, you know, she picks up the slack in places that I lack. I pick up the slack in places that she lacks.”

The sisters made their decision after much thought last summer. Both play soccer, too, but Katherine was the one drawing more interest from Division I soccer coaches. Determined to stay together with her sister, Katherine opted to give up her soccer aspirations and offer themselves as a package deal for basketball.

They say it has eased some of the strain of the recruiting process. “It’s made it easier,” Caroline said, “because it weeds out the ones that aren’t gonna be there.”

The Coyers’ pact is also forcing college coaches, who have a limited number of scholarships for incoming freshmen and often have specific team needs, into some creative thinking about their 2012 recruiting classes. Typically, a school has three to four scholarships available each year, and devoting two slots to a pair of guards with differing skill sets doubles the risk.

The Coyers have been sought by colleges since they were middle-schoolers, piling up mail from schools all over the country asking them to play either basketball or soccer. But at least six schools dropped out of the running after they announced their intent to play only basketball as a package deal. More than a dozen — including Florida State, Texas Christian and Villanova — have remained interested.

Oakton Coach Fred Priester, who has been coaching in Northern Virginia for three decades, feels it’s a gamble with a certain payoff.

“I guarantee you before the third week of practice, they will be trying to figure out ways to get [Katherine] on the floor over other kids that [they] thought were better than her,” said Priester, whose teams are 79-5 since the Coyers arrived at the Vienna school.

Caroline, an All-Met basketball player and the Northern Region’s player of the year this past season, is viewed by recruiters as the better basketball player and could be sacrificing an offer from a stronger program to ensure she plays with Katherine.

“I understand coaches not being able to see what I do because [Caroline] is more obviously a good player than I am,” Katherine said. “And I understand that and I don’t want to hold her back from doing whatever she wants to do. . . . The fact that she is willing to push aside other schools to me says a lot about who she is.”

While offense flows out of Caroline, it has had to be coaxed over the years out of Katherine. Though her offense has improved — she averaged a career-high 10.4 points this winter — Katherine’s game is “more subtle,” as Priester put it.

Caroline insists that she has no regrets in ignoring the schools that have offered scholarships to only her. A college that doesn’t want her sister isn’t Caroline’s ideal school anyway.

“If we were to go anywhere, any coach would realize that Katherine brings just as much to the program, if not more, than what I do,” Caroline said. “That’s why when coaches are like, ‘We don’t really see it,’ or, ‘We really can’t take both of you,’ some people would be hurt by it. But for me its just like, ‘All right, that’s one letter down.’ ”

The Coyers’ dilemma isn’t unprecedented.

Locally, Dunbar fraternal twins Vance and Vernard Roberts insisted on playing football together. They were recruited as such — defensive back and running back, respectively — and committed to West Virginia last July. And the commitment West Virginia showed to Vernard after he was ruled ineligible for his senior football season proved important to both brothers, especially Vance. “That showed me that they really wanted us and everything they were saying was true,” Vance said.

The Coyers are seeking a similar commitment.

“I’d rather play at a school with my sister that wants both of us and really values both of our talents and sees what we will bring to their programs than a school that maybe only wants one of us and is only bringing the other one along just because,” Caroline said. “I definitely wouldn’t want to play without her.”

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