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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | ERIC SONDHEIMER

Split Decision

Collins Twins Help Stanford Bid for Title but Soon Will Go Separate Ways

February 28, 2001|ERIC SONDHEIMER

On Dec. 2, 1978, Jason and Jarron Collins were born. They've grown to 7 feet and 6-11, respectively, but height is the smallest part of their special story about twins approaching the most significant phase of their lives.

For Portia and Paul Collins, this week will be another milestone etched in their memories. Their boys are returning to Los Angeles playing for top-ranked Stanford in basketball games against USC on Thursday and UCLA on Saturday.

Jason and Jarron have only four regular-season games left, then the NCAA tournament before they go their separate ways for the first time. At Stanford, their record is 36-1 when they've been in the starting lineup together.

"At the end of this year, we will part ways with regards to basketball," Jarron said. "We're trying not to think about it too much. It's just another thing we have to experience. Everyone has to grow in life."

From the time their father put up a basketball hoop against their bedroom door when they were 2, the twins have been teammates and soul mates.

They've navigated through stares and silly questions asked of giant twins and come out stronger, more humble and better prepared for the adult challenges ahead.

Those who met the twins when they enrolled at Harvard-Westlake High as freshmen aren't surprised they seem content with their surroundings on and off the court only months before they graduate from Stanford with bachelor's degrees, Jason in economics and Jarron in urban studies.

"While they both recognize a pro career is possible, they've taken care of academics very well," said Greg Hilliard, their coach at Harvard-Westlake.

Jason has grown the most in terms of developing a comfort zone in handling public responsibilities.

"I'm definitely more comfortable interacting with the media," he said. "I sort of got a bad reputation. In high school, Jarron was more comfortable. Now we're sort of even."

Jason has let his hair grow into a mini-afro and wears earrings while Jarron shaves his head.

Jarron is military-like neat while Jason is teased for his dorm room having a "monsoon look."

But Jason insists he's changing.

"We spent the summer living with our aunt," he said. "She's a very neat person. I had to learn to pick up after myself. I'm not at the level of Jarron or my aunt. I still have organized chaos and know where everything is."

The Collins twins led Harvard-Westlake to state championships in 1996 and 1997 and have improved their skills considerably at Stanford.

"They're ready for the next level," Paul said.

Jason's college career was put on hold for two years because of injuries to his knee and wrist. He's only a sophomore in athletic eligibility, which will give him the option of returning, but his performance Saturday against Washington shows his NBA stock is rising.

He scored a career-high 33 points and made 13 of 14 shots, including four three-pointers.

"I've shown the ability to step away from the basket, knock down open jump shots and contribute to the inside and outside game that's been working and complementing our great shooters," he said.

Jason is averaging 14.0 points and 7.8 rebounds. Jarron is averaging 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. They possess almost telepathic powers in knowing where the other is on the court, resulting in sometimes blind passes that somehow reach their target.

Jason won't tip his hand whether he's going to join Jarron, a senior, in making himself available for the NBA draft, but either way, the twins are coming to terms that life will be different.

"I'd love to play with my brother at the next level, but the odds are against it," Jason said. "I don't think Horace and Harvey Grant played on the same team. It will be a little bit emotional knowing we have to go our own ways. We've been building for this. We know it's inevitable."

There will be lots of reminiscing this week.

Said Portia: "They were rambunctious, they were energetic, they kept us real busy. I remember having to go and buy their clothes. Their shoes were so big. It seems like I've been going to the men's department since kindergarten."

Said Paul: "I knew I couldn't intimidate them anymore when they were about 14 and I was looking up to them. I realize I'm talking to an adult now instead of a kid. They still listen to me, but they have their own opinions. They weigh everything. Sure, we miss them, but they're adults now."

By all accounts, the twins have built a strong foundation that should protect and comfort them in the years ahead.

They are clearly their parents' children.

"You can't tell kids how to behave," Hilliard said. "You have to live it yourself. You see Portia and Paul and you see Jason and Jarron in them. They're models for good things, for the value system and how they handle themselves in public."

Jason can beat his mother in tennis, Jarron can crush his father in golf.

They long ago forgave their parents for making them attend Harvard-Westlake, a place that became their second home.

As they come home playing for the No. 1 team in the land, they have no complaints.

They even offer the ultimate compliment about Mom and Dad.

"They're pretty cool," Jason said.

*

Eric Sondheimer's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422 or eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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