Of course, the Collinses have been surprising people since Day One. On Dec. 2, 1978, their mother, Portia, gave birth to seven-pound, one-ounce Jason and thought her work was done for the day. "Uh, there's another baby in there," a nurse informed her. Stunned, papa Paul suddenly forgot all their Lamaze lessons and dropped Portia's head like a two-ton anchor. "Hold on here, I need you, buddy!" Portia screamed, and eight minutes later seven-pound, four-ounce Jarron made his appearance. Fortunately for her, Portia didn't go for the family's first double double that day.
The Collins boys have never bothered to find out if they're identical or fraternal twins—nor, in fact, do they care. They have their share of eerie similarities, though. Ask Jarron a question, and he'll often use the word we, even if he's only talking about himself. During high school the twins tried all sorts of ploys, from shooting each other's free throws during games to switching places in each other's classes, and nobody was stunned that when it came time to choose a college, they would go only as a package deal. (So long, Kansas, which wanted only Jarron.)
As Jarron says, "Our grandma told us there's strength in numbers," and a visit to most Cardinal home games will reveal a vocal chapter of the Collins clan, including the twins' parents, an aunt, their maternal grandmother and even a 93-year-old great-grandmother. The twins chose Stanford for intellectual reasons too, which was plainly evident during one postgame radio interview last year when Jarron was asked about the surroundings at Washington State. "It reminds me," he said, "of the moors in Wuthering Heights?'
Still, anyone who's convinced the twins are as similar as the umlaut points in Bronte isn't paying close enough attention. "They're completely different guys," says Cardinal reserve Alex Gelbard, a high school teammate. "Jarron's more glib and a bit of a mama's boy, while Jason lives more on the wild side."
Those differences can be traced to their childhood, when their parents made sure to spend as much time as possible with the twins separately, the better for each to develop his own personality. But if there was one event that changed them more than any other, it was the tragedy that took place during their freshman year of high school. At 4:31 a.m. on Jan. 17, 1994, they were asleep in the family's house in a middle-class neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley when the place started shaking. Violently. Windows and dishes shattered. Furniture flipped over. A few miles away an apartment complex collapsed, killing 16 people.
"Are you there? Are you there?" Jason remembers asking his brother frantically in the darkness.
Says Jarron, "I couldn't move because I was so afraid."
By the time it was over, the Northridge earthquake would claim 57 lives—and very nearly 58. In those first terrifying moments a sheet of glass covering Jason's bedside desk slid off. Its razor sharp corner crashed down onto the bed, tearing through the pillow that lay inches from Jason's head. "If I had been sleeping on the other side of the bed," he says, "I'd probably be dead."
The Collinses had to move out for four months while the house was rebuilt, and never again would the twins share a bedroom. Each boy finally had a chance to stake out his own turf. "When we got separate rooms, I realized that I like to keep things plain," says Jarron. "I don't wear any jewelry. I'm not extravagant. Everything has to be cleaned up and in its place." Jason, for his part, could finally enjoy his pigpen, his posters, his Springer in peace. "I liked the situation better," he says, "because I didn't have Jarron going behind me and picking my stuff up all the time."
Just as they've adjusted to each other's quirks, the twins had to react to Madsen's return to the starting lineup last month, which meant Jason was headed back to the bench. "We went about two months where we didn't play with Mark, so we had to get used to his tendencies again," says Jarron. Stanford's tentativeness was evident during its 68-65 loss to Arizona on Jan. 8, in which Madsen had only two points, but since then the Cardinal has regrouped and run off nine straight wins.