Call it what you wish—wanton austerity, artistic minimalism or prison-cell chic—but the dorm room of Stan ford forward Jarron Collins may be the barest, most orderly dwelling in any college, let alone college basketball. Collins's bed? Made with military precision. His clothes? Folded as neatly as origami. His carpet? He actually vacuums. Most unnerving of all are Collins's pristine, poster-free walls, which resemble a polar whiteout. "My dad says my room looks like a toilet bowl," he says, removing an invisible piece of lint from his bed. "The only thing that really decorates this place are the screen savers on my computer."
Now walk one floor below and enter—if you dare—the lair of Cardinal center Jason Collins, Jarron's twin brother. The bed is Omaha Beach, postinvasion; the floor, a mishmash of dirty laundry, books and comedy videos. Posters of Bruce Lee, Biggie Smalls and the Williams sisters scream from the walls, and the magnet on the minifridge says it all: I [LOVE] JERRY (Springer, of course). "It's all organized," Jason argues fruitlessly. "I know where everything is."
"He would always use that excuse growing up," Jarron bellows, shaking his head. "I know where everything is. So pick it up!"
Jarron and Jason. Felix and Oscar. Wombmates but never, ever again roommates. Yet, as the second-ranked Cardinal has happily discovered, the two make an awfully sweet Collins mix. Through Sunday, Stanford was 21-1 and sitting with Arizona atop the Pac-10, due in good measure to this oddest of odd couples. The twins are so individually unique that though they look almost exactly alike, they have entirely different appearances (Jason wears the high hair, sideburns and earrings; Jarron is more clean-cut), academic tastes (Jason majors in economics; Jarron in urban studies), class years (Jarron is a junior; Jason, because of injuries, is a redshirt freshman) and even playing styles. Whereas 6'10", 248-pound Jarron is a cerebral high-post flasher capable of moving out to the wing, 6'11", 255-pound Jason is a one-man heavy industry, bulldozing mercilessly though the lane. "Jarron understands the game better than anyone I've ever played with, and Jason's so tough," says Stanford senior forward Mark Madsen, himself a bruiser of the highest order. "The other day Jason and I were doing a one-on-one post-up drill for 10 minutes, and I've never been so beat up in my life. I wanted out"
On the nation's most balanced team, Jarron has been the Cardinal's most consistent inside scoring threat, averaging 11.5 points and 6.4 rebounds through Sunday, while Jason was adding 8.8 points and 6.4 boards and shooting a team-high 65.3%. The twins have had an equally profound impact on the defensive end. Their bumping and grinding with opposing pivotmen has helped Stanford hold opponents to a nation-low 33.8 field goal percentage, a mark that would surpass Marquette's 35.8 in 1993-94 as the lowest percentage since the NCAA started keeping the stat in 1977-78.
After the Cardinal harassed Oregon into shooting 36.1% in a 76-61 Stanford win last Thursday, coach Mike Montgomery explained the secret to his team's success: "We're big enough that we can defend the post without having our perimeter guys help out, and that keeps our opponents' wing players from getting better shots. It's a nice luxury to have."
The twins' role in the defense is simple, at least in theory. "We try to take what the opposing player likes to do and make him do it farther out," says Jason. "So if he likes to catch it at five feet, we'll push him out to nine."
"And get him to take a shot he doesn't want to take," adds Jarron. "When you face good players, you're not going to stop them from getting their 15 points, but you want to make them shoot a low percentage and feel they have to work for all their baskets."
Although the Collinses might know everything about each other's game—they've been playing together since age six—only recently have they rediscovered common ground on the court. In 1997 they arrived at Stanford as the most highly touted recruits in school history after having led the Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood to two straight California Division III (small schools) titles. Yet while Jarron has produced from the start, playing a role in the Cardinal's 1998 Final Four run, Jason suffered season-ending injuries two years in a row. He went down with cartilage damage in his left knee at the start of his first season and dislocated his right wrist during the seventh game last year.
As a reminder of his struggles, Jason still carries in his backpack the five pins that held his wrist in place. During his two redshirt seasons, some days were harder than others. Last year teammate David Moseley got so tired of Jason's sideline critiques during a mistake-ridden practice that he turned and angrily called him "a big bust." So when Stanford opened the 1999-2000 season by beating Duke and Iowa at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, the biggest surprise wasn't Jarron's winning MVP honors, but Jason's career-high 18 points and 12 rebounds in the title game while filling in for the injured Madsen. At a time when most observers thought Madsen's 11-game absence from the starting lineup with a strained right hamstring would sink the Cardinal, Jason helped spearhead Stanford's 12-0 start. Bust? Bust that. "I almost made him cry last year," Moseley says, chuckling, "but when he got the chance to play, he proved me wrong."