Mater Dei's Wear twins ready to make impact at UNC
Posted: Monday January 28, 2008 3:17PM; Updated: Tuesday January 29, 2008 11:38AM
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- The hashmarks begin high on the closet door under the stairs at the Wear house. There are two sets, labeled with dates in varying blue and black inks; the "D" side rises nearly in exact step with the "T" side, never straying more than fractions of an inch apart. The first measurements are dated 7/10/2004, a few years after they moved to their current home. The last are dated 12/23/2006. After that, David Wear Jr., and his twin brother, Travis, outgrew the door.
The Wears are college basketball's next big Californian siblings, residing on a sleepy inland block south of the 405 freeway in Orange County. The Wear boys, both 6-foot-10, 218 pounds, 17 years old, and nearly identical in appearance, are junior stars for the nation's No. 2-ranked prep team, Mater Dei, a Catholic powerhouse in Santa Ana. Unlike the Collinses (Jason and Jarron) and Lopezes (Brook and Robin) that preceded them in twin lore, the Wears are not headed to Stanford, or any Pac-10 school. They took an unofficial visit to North Carolina on Oct. 12 for Late Night With Roy Williams, and, says David, "just loved the whole atmosphere of a college basketball town" -- enough so that the Wears committed to UNC, together, on Jan. 4.
At a time when some of the top prospects in the Class of 2008 (see: Tyreke Evans) and nearly all of the recruits from the '09 class are still undecided, the Wears -- the 19th- and 20th-rated prospects by Rivals, and the 26th and 27th by Scout.com -- were part of an unprecedented run of early pledges to the fourth-ranked Tar Heels. Between Jan. 3-13, UNC also received commitments from juniors Dexter Strickland, a shooting guard from New Jersey who's ranked No. 13 overall by SI/Takkle.com, and John Henson, a 6-10 forward from Texas ranked No. 25 by Rivals; as well as sophomore Reggie Bullock, a highly regarded 6-5 small forward from North Carolina. "It all happened at light speed, and all of them are good players," Scout.com analyst Dave Telep says of the Heels' recruiting haul. Telep has yet to rank '09 classes but says, "Carolina, at this stage, has set the bar for everyone else."
The twins, whose second choice was UCLA, do not fit the mold of the Tar Heels' current crop of big men: Whereas Tyler Hansbrough, Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson -- and even Brandan Wright before that -- never stray far from the paint, the Wears are what Telep calls "hybrid power forwards" who could add a versatile new dimension to the Carolina offense. Says their coach at Mater Dei, Gary McKnight, "They're so graceful that you don't realize they're 6-10 1/2. The coordination they have, for their size, is just remarkable."
Their father, David Wear Sr., who's an assistant coach at Mater Dei, had the misfortune of graduating as a 6-8 low-post forward at the beginning of the Magic Johnson Era, when NBA teams were becoming enamored with guards of that size. Wear averaged 18 points per game as a senior at Cal-State Fullerton in 1980-81, then briefly became a basketball vagabond, playing one season in the Philippines, part of another with the CBA's Anchorage Northern Knights, as well as a stint with a pro team in England. The most humbling moments, he says, came at tryouts in Los Angeles where Italian and Greek clubs -- the elite European destinations -- were in search of big men.
"I'd show up and be the smallest guy there," says David Sr. "They'd want to run 5-on-5, and the 7-footers weren't going to bring the ball up the court, so I'd have to play the 1 or the 2. I hadn't worked on ballhandling skills enough [in college], so I was handicapped. That's when I thought, 'You know what, if the opportunity ever comes up to work on basketball with my kids, I want them to learn to play from the outside in.' I didn't want them to be the slow guys on the block."
And thus the reality that brought an early end to David Sr.'s career helped ensure that his sons, even though they'd outgrow him by at least two inches, wouldn't also be pigeonholed into the post. At the beginning of their National Junior Basketball days, in the third grade, they played together in the backcourt. "We'd be the biggest kids on the floor, bringing up the ball," says Travis. "And whichever brother didn't bring it up, would get the first entry pass."
They had also been playing the very Californian sport of roller hockey starting at the age of seven -- not just for recreation in the street, but as defensemen for Huntington Beach's 10-and-under North American championship team in 2001. The Wears gave up the pucks by 11, but the hand-eye coordination required to stick-handle, and the agility required to skate, have stuck with them on the hardcourt. Watch even the short video clips of them on Rivals.com, and it's apparent that despite being 6-10, they are not stiffs: They run and shoot as fluidly as elite swingmen, have quality skills in the post, and their stats are identically gaudy: David averages 17.2 points and 9.1 rebounds, Travis averages 17.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. McKnight calls them perhaps the most unique players he's coached at Mater Dei, and says they're still growing into their frames.
"They're not skinny kids; in the last year and a half they've added a lot of muscle," he says. "It's scary to think of how they'll look two years from now at North Carolina."
One player eagerly awaiting the Wears' arrival in college is Taylor King, with whom they teamed to win a state championship at Mater Dei last season. King is now on the opposite side of Tobacco Road rivalry, averaging 8.6 points off the bench for third-ranked Duke; and in the spirit of the feud, he has already warned the Wears of the rigors of ACC basketball.
"I called Taylor to let him know about my commitment," says Travis, "and he started talking trash, saying stuff like, 'You're not ready for the ACC. These guys are all men, you're not going to be ready for it.'"
Adds David, "He said he's going to give us a couple of 'bows" -- as in, elbows.