Gwyn and Gene Givens long ago realized that competition was inevitable when sons Chad and Greg were born within two years of one another.
So when the boys started music lessons, each was given a different instrument to help temper the sibling rivalry. Chad got a cello, Greg a violin and Gwyn and Gene got a harmonic convergence that produced two all-state orchestra musicians.
Chad and Greg turned out to be a couple of capable basketball players, too.
Competitive one-on-one basketball games began in the seventh grade. Greg had the better outside shot and played better defense. Chad had a powerful inside game.
"I think Greg made me become a better offensive player because I was frustrated by his defense, " Chad said. "And I think I made him become a better defensive player. I think that has evolved into what we are today--me being the offensive player and him the defensive player."
The Givens brothers have made themselves better players and have contributed heavily to the La Canada High team, which is having one of its best seasons. Chad, a 6-7 junior center who is averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds, was named MVP of the Alhambra tournament and was named to the Chino and Crescenta Valley all-tournament teams. Greg, a 6-4 senior guard-forward, is averaging 10 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists and also was an all-tournament selection at the Alhambra and Crescenta Valley tournaments.
La Canada Coach Tom Hoffman said the Givens brothers have had a tremendous impact on his program. Both started last season when La Canada finished second in the Rio Hondo League and went to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
"Chad is probably the area's best big man," Hoffman said. "We didn't expect this much from Chad. We knew he'd get the rebounds but we didn't expect him to improve as much as he has. He was always fundamentally sound, but he's more fluid and a better athlete this year.
"Greg defensively is as good as any player in the area. He has very good instincts. He works hard and he takes pride in his defense. He guards the best player on the other team no matter what position. He has good quickness, good footwork for defense and he anticipates very well."
La Canada (14-2) is favored to win the league title. This season the Spartans have won the Alhambra tournament, finished second at Crescenta Valley and won the consolation championship at Chino. Last week they opened league play with a victory over South Pasadena.
Chad and Greg seem to feel the pressure of their potential but maintain that the only expectations they are concerned with are self-imposed.
"I'm never satisfied with whatever I do," Chad said. "Right now I can see that I'm helping the team but I want to do more. I feel pressure from other people but I don't really care about the pressure from other people, I care about the pressure that I put on myself. Because as long as I'm happy I'm sure everyone else will be."
"We easily find fault in ourselves," Greg said. "Our coach says we should emphasize the good points and not stress the bad points as much. And use our strengths to help the team. But it's not a one-on-five out there. It's not because of Chad and I. There are about seven other guys on the team who play important roles in practice and in the games. If it wasn't for them we wouldn't be 14-2."
Chad is joined on the front line by forwards Chris Jones (6-4) and Tae Kwan Lee (6-2). Jones is averaging 11 points and Lee is averaging five points. Greg, who plays off-guard, is teamed in the backcourt with playmaker Cary Kwasizur. The 5-10 senior is averaging 5 points and 6 assists.
"This year's team is winning the close games," Chad said. "In the last minute or so we're taking control. Last year's team had a good defense. But everyone was just a good athlete. They couldn't put the ball in the hoop."
Chad and Greg have had little trouble getting the job done--in almost all facets of their lives. Both have grade-point averages above 3.7 and are well-respected among their peers. Chad also played baseball the past two seasons but will likely join Greg on the volleyball team this year. Both have tried to pack as much activity into their schedules as possible.
"When you play basketball it's only two hours but you are expected to go hard for those two hours and concentrate," Greg said. "The same for the violin and cello. It doesn't matter how long you practice, it's how long you concentrate. It's quality more than quantity."
Gene Givens played basketball at Dartmouth in 1955 and has been a strong supporter of his sons' athletic careers. He said he attended all 34 games in a six-week summer league last year. But Gene Givens also has tried to help his sons keep a healthy perspective.
"Sometimes they tend to get basketball out of perspective and place too much importance upon it," Gene said. "We tell them that their official career as a basketball player will end in four years unless they are very lucky.
"But I think that basketball has helped them with their discipline," Gene said. "It's part of the overall family discipline. We tried to blend the music with the academics and the sports and hope that there is enough time in the day to get them all accomplished."