If it had been up to Starr and Joi Jefferson's parents, neither daughter would have taken up basketball. At first their mother, Bessie, hoped they would become ballerinas. Then their father, Jeff, objected to the idea of his girls playing basketball.
In the end, Starr and Joi played--and played well. Starr, a Laurel High graduate, starts at forward for George Washington University. Joi is a standout senior forward on the third-ranked Riverdale Baptist girls team.
"When my mother told me she was putting me in ballet, I cried," Starr Jefferson said. "After the first recital, she realized it wasn't for me. Then she tried to get us both into gymnastics. Finally, when I was 10, I started playing basketball and haven't stopped since."
Joi Jefferson said she followed her older sister because, "everything she did, I wanted to do." That was the case with basketball, even if their father did not approve at first.
"I thought females shouldn't be playing ball," Jeff Jefferson said. "I had a heated conversation with my wife. I didn't realize girls could play."
Jeff Jefferson's girls can play. Starr Jefferson, a second-team All-Met selection in 1996, is Laurel's all-time leader in steals and averages 5.7 points and a team-leading 7.4 rebounds per game this season for the Colonials.
Joi Jefferson, a second-team All-Met last season, leads Riverdale Baptist with 23.4 points, 10.2 steals, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists through five games--all victories. In October, Joi signed a letter-of-intent to play at Division I Northeastern University.
"Joi is a leader, an all-around player, and I thank God I have the opportunity to coach her," Riverdale Baptist Coach Keith Lynch said. "There are very few Jois out there. She understands the game. She can play inside, outside, play great defense and she's always going to give you 110 percent."
Starr Jefferson made a name for herself in high school as a physical inside presence, despite being just 5 feet 10. Even at GW, she plays power forward. Joi Jefferson is 5-9, but she also plays well under the basket--thanks in part to some not-always-friendly backyard one-on-one games the sisters played as children.
"When I play against those big girls and they knock me down, I get right back up," Joi Jefferson said. "I'm used to it."
Starr Jefferson said: "I never let her win. I'd kill her if I could. One time she was making shot after shot and was about to beat me, so I started bullying her. She slammed the ball on the ground and went into the house crying."
Both Jeffersons show a similar tenacity on the floor. "They both do the intangible things that a lot of kids won't do," said Bladensburg Coach Lester Butler, who coached Starr Jefferson's Amateur Athletic Union team for two years. "They hustle and they rebound."
But Joi Jefferson, who did not like going to her sister's games at Laurel because she was nicknamed "Little Starr," has emerged from her sibling's shadow with a more refined perimeter game to go along with her inside talent.
"Joi's a better all-around player," said DuVal Coach Walter Clark, who has coached Joi Jefferson's AAU team since she was 11. "Her outside shot hasn't always been reliable, but she worked on it and now it's consistent. I can't say enough about how coachable Joi is. She's developed into a student of the game."
Today, Starr and Joi Jefferson are each other's biggest supporters. They go to their games as much as possible, and when Starr suffered through a recent shooting slump, Joi sent her a special lucky bracelet. According to their mother, if Joi has an off night shooting, she asks to call Starr during the game.
"People at school make fun of me because I have seven pictures of Joi in my room," Starr Jefferson said. "No one has been as supportive as my sister since I've been in college. She's my absolute best friend and favorite person in the whole world."
CAPTION: Starr Jefferson, a second-team All-Met in 1996, is GW's leading rebounder.
CAPTION: Starr Jefferson, Joi's older sister, plays for George Washington.
CAPTION: Riverdale Baptist's Joi Jefferson signed a letter-of-intent with Northeastern.