MEMPHIS — “Can you tell them apart?”
Alex Timiraos gestured across the court at FedEx Forum and posed the burning question. There stood the twins, 6 feet and 10 inches tall apiece, both of them wearing blue UCLA practice jerseys. Timiraos, the sports information director for the Bruins, is a twin himself, so he understands. He leaned in towards a stumped reporter and hushed his voice, as if he were offering a secret.
“David’s hair,” he said, “is slightly, slightly longer.”
The subtle difference became apparent, and soon after so did the more obvious one. David Wear donned sleeves underneath his uniform; Travis Wear did not. Oh, and their names were emblazoned on the backside, curling around their shoulder blades.
D. Wear, 12.
T. Wear, 24.
Depending on how Thursday’s Sweet 16 game against No. 1 Florida goes, the Wears either have one game left together as teammates, or possibly two, or possibly three or four if No. 4 UCLA makes a spectacular run and advances past the West Regional here, or possibly more if some European team finds it fitting to sign the package deal, because since they were little, Travis and David Wear have always been a package deal.
They sport similar styles on the court, versatile and capable of stepping behind the arc to shoot three-pointers. Travis plays slightly more for the Bruins (23.7 minutes per game versus 22.9) and scores more too (7.0 points per game versus 6.5). But their free-throw percentages are identical (82.1), their deep voices sound the same, they attend the same classes in the same major and, since they were young, they have always encountered the novelty of people staring up two very, very tall twins.
“It becomes a part of you,” David said Wednesday. “It is who I am and it’s a part of who I am, so I’m completely used to it now and completely accepting it.”
“That’s been your identity your whole life; you don’t really know anything else,” Travis said.
The differences are there, of course, if you look. David’s hair is indeed longer. He is one minute older, and therefore the wiser one, unless you ask Travis, because his grade-point average was “like a .1 percent higher maybe.” David, his brother says, is bad at Xbox, and gets so competitive that at least five controllers have been broken on his account. Travis, on the other hand, knows how to push his brother’s buttons. After a bad game or practice, he’ll walk into their apartment – shared, obviously – and find David on the couch, watching television.
“He’ll come in and kick my legs after the way or start changing the channel,” David said, “I’ll be like, ‘What are you doing?’ He’ll say, ‘Nothing, I just want to watch something else.’ He looks at me and starts laughing, because he knows I’m about to jump on him and beat him up. He goads me in a way. He likes to instigate much more than I do.”
It was a mutual decision, though, when the former McDonalds all-Americans from Huntington Beach, Calif., decided to leave North Carolina, lasting only one season on the East Coast. The fit wasn’t right, they said today, for both of them. So they transferred to UCLA, a 45-minute drive from their childhood home, and have since ridden out their college careers together, like they had always planned.
This season, the Wears endured a coaching change that brought in Steve Alford, who committed the difference to memory because David wears his college number, 12. It’s been fun, Alford said, when referees mix up the two, giving one a foul when the other committed it.
“They’ve been really good,” Alford said Wednesday. “They’ve been so consistent throughout their college careers and where they’re consistent is how hard they play. You may not make all your shots, you may not do as well as you’d like to do in certain games, but one of the things I’ve noticed with Trav and Dave, especially the year I’ve had them, is I don’t care if it’s a practice or a shoot-around or a game, thy give me everything they’ve got. From a coaching standpoint, that’s all you want.
“Success usually follows you individually and collectively by how you work, and those two young men work hard every single day.”
The realization has dawned on both in recent weeks, as their time together at UCLA nears its end. Both want to continue playing basketball in some capacity. But, for once, the future hasn’t been decided and each knows it likely won’t contain the other.
“You can’t play on the same team forever, live in the same house forever,” Travis said. “Eventually you’re going to move apart at some point. Right now, it’s coming to that realization. It’s not too tough though. We’re going to stay in contact, see each other a lot. I don’t know how far apart we’ll live.”
And what if some European team decides Travis and David are better suited to keep playing together? Or what if the club follows the path of so many gawkers at restaurants and decides its fans would really get a kick out of watching two players who, long ago, stopped playing one-on-one, because it was like trying to out-maneuver yourself in the mirror?
“Yeah, I think there could be an incentive there,” Travis said. “I think there might be an opportunity to do something in that aspect. But you never know. You’ll see.”