April 21, 2023
Lister sister assisters: Charting the careers of twin point guards Cinnamon and Jasmine Lister
The Listers’ paths diverged after high school, but both eventually found a way to the WNBA
When Cinnamon and Jasmine Lister were growing up in Corona, California, the undersized point guards always played on the same teams, trading off who was the lead guard and who played off the ball. The twins could be hard to tell apart, but at least one subtle difference emerged: their pregame superstitions.
The Listers’ unusual path to basketball started when they were seven years old. They and their older sister Kayla attended the dance studio Sac ShowBiz, and it had the Hip-Hop Crew, a group that performed at Sacramento Monarchs games. Jasmine and Cinnamon were enthralled watching players such as Ticha Penicheiro and Kara Lawson, and soon they were playing in recreational leagues themselves.
“Ticha Penicheiro was so finesse and looked so under control,” Jasmine told Inside Vandy in 2013. “The flashiness kind of got me because I was a kid, and she was just so good and composed all the time.”
At Santiago High School, Jasmine blossomed into an elite scorer, setting school records with 2,265 career points and 265 3-pointers, and was a three-time First Team All-State selection. Meanwhile, Cinnamon scored 1,009 career points, made 144 3-pointers, and won Santiago’s Defensive Player of the Year award twice. Both were ranked among the top 50 point guards in the Class of 2010, according to ESPN.
“I think [playing together] helped because we challenge each other a lot,” Jasmine said in 2013. “We would play one-on-one and get used to each other’s moves, so eventually we’d have to learn new things.”
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During the college recruiting process, the twins knew they wanted to leave home and play together. But no program offered them both scholarships, likely in part because Cinnamon would be listed at 5’5 and Jasmine at 5’4. So they reluctantly split up — Cinnamon to Boise State and Jasmine to Vanderbilt — and traded their telepathic instincts on the court for daily telephone or Skype calls.
The twins never played against each other in college, so we never got to see who would come out on top. But let’s stack up their stats now and find out who has bragging rights. All data are from Her Hoop Stats and include Cinnamon’s statistics at both Boise State and California State University, Northridge (CSUN), where she transferred after two seasons. The better performance in each category is shaded in gray.
Jasmine leads the way in most statistical categories, including points per game, minutes per game, assist rate and rebound rate. (Many statistics used here are rates rather than per-game figures to account for the fact that Cinnamon averaged about 11.5 fewer minutes per game than Jasmine.) Jasmine also earned more total win shares per 40 minutes, 0.16 to Cinnamon’s 0.11, most of which came on the offensive end.
To be sure, Jasmine’s statistics would be tough for many people to beat. She left Vanderbilt as its all-time leader in minutes played, as a three-time All-SEC Second Team selection, and in the top 10 in program history in career points and assists. She helped her team make four NCAA Tournaments and was an excellent scoring point guard, notching a career-high 30 points at UT Martin as a sophomore and 22 in an upset of Tennessee as a senior.
“She has been the best second-half player I think I’ve ever had,” Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb said after the Tennessee win. “I don’t want to jinx it because it’s been so consistent. It’s almost like she lets the game come to her in the first half, keeps us in the game, and does what she needs to do, doesn’t take a lot of shots, doesn’t try to take over. And when everybody else is tired in the second half, Jas knows that she can put it in another gear.”
Both sisters were strong 3-point shooters, with Jasmine hitting 37.8% of her attempts in four years and Cinnamon making 36.7%. (That’s fitting given how much the sisters admired Lawson, a 39.0% 3-point shooter in the WNBA, and how Cinnamon said she modeled her game off of Lawson and Kristi Toliver, a 38.4% shooter from deep.) And Cinnamon holds the sororal bragging rights for 3-pointers made in a season with 89 in 2013-14, compared with Jasmine’s career-best 65 in 2010-11. Despite playing only two seasons at CSUN, Cinnamon currently ranks fourth in program history in 3-pointers made.
Cinnamon also tops Jasmine in the defensive categories — defensive win shares per 40 minutes and steal rate — and was less turnover-prone.
The lower turnover rate is particularly notable because Cinnamon transferred midway through her career. She said at the time that she was looking for a system that fit her skills better, and she trusted CSUN head coach Jason Flowers, who had recruited her out of high school.
Cinnamon led by example with her work ethic during her redshirt season in 2012-13. She added her 3-point shot; developed her ball-handling, defense and rebounding; and honed her basketball IQ, learning the Matadors’ offense better and how to make her teammates better within it.
“She came in with a focus and drive that’s not normal these days with 17- to 21-year-olds,” Flowers told The Press-Enterprise in 2014. “… She understood that every day was helping her [and] invested in herself.”
Then, when Cinnamon was eligible to play, she did well enough that Flowers adjusted his lineups, going smaller at times to give her more minutes. She ended up playing more minutes in her first season on the court at CSUN (1,076) than in two seasons at Boise State (952), and the Matadors advanced to the NCAA Tournament in both seasons. Those were CSUN’s first NCAA Tournament appearances since 1999 and the first of Cinnamon’s career.
After college, Jasmine went undrafted and ended up juggling playing and coaching for several years. She signed a training camp contract with the Seattle Storm in 2014 and made it to the last day of training camp before being waived. She was then hired as a graduate assistant at UConn and worked there from 2014-16, a period when the Huskies won two national championships and lost just one game.
While coaching with UConn, Jasmine kept working out, often with assistant coach and Huskies legend Shea Ralph, and in 2015, the WNBA came calling again. Former Storm head coach Brian Agler signed her midseason when his new team, the Los Angeles Sparks, was dealing with injuries.
“She is sharp,” Agler told The Middletown Press that season. “She came in and picked things up within an hour. She is on top of things, she is very vocal in practice, [and she] has great leadership skills.”
For Jasmine’s part, she admitted that she “was in awe” when she made it to the WNBA, but she tried to trust what she had practiced all her life. She played in seven games over the course of a month before being cut, averaging 2.9 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 9.3 minutes per game. She also made eight of 15 total shots and four of five 3-point attempts.
Jasmine got one more chance with the Sparks the following year in training camp, but she was waived again before the season started. She then became an assistant coach at Washington for one year, working with future WNBA No. 1 overall pick Kelsey Plum, before filling the same role at DePaul for a year.
In 2018, UConn reached back out after assistant coach Marisa Moseley left for a head coaching job. “It took about five seconds” to decide to ask Jasmine to fill the vacancy, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said at the time, citing her work ethic, relationships with players, and experience with successful teams in the previous two seasons. DePaul head coach Doug Bruno encouraged her to take the opportunity, too. She did and stayed until May 2020, when, after a leave of absence, she resigned to “pursue other professional opportunities,” according to Auriemma.
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Cinnamon followed a similar path after college, playing three seasons of professional basketball in Morocco and Cyprus while also dabbling in coaching and personal training. After she retired from playing, she joined Courtney Banghart’s staff at Princeton for one season in 2018-19, followed by three at UC Irvine. In April 2020, both Listers made Silver Waves Media’s list of the top 50 assistant coaches in Division I.
“[Cinnamon] has such a passion for the game, combined with a genuine eagerness to contribute positively to the student-athlete experience,” Banghart said when Cinnamon was hired. “… She is a winner and a force for good that we’ll all rally around.”
In 2022, Cinnamon made her own leap to the WNBA, joining a Phoenix Mercury coaching staff comprised entirely of female former players. Among the players she worked closely with was center Megan Gustafson, who had been trying to develop her 3-point shot. Gustafson shot 12-for-26 from 3-point range in 2022 compared with just 1-for-12 in her first three WNBA seasons combined. And this season, coincidentally, Cinnamon will get to work with new Mercury point guard Moriah Jefferson, who played at UConn when Jasmine was a graduate assistant.
The Listers started their basketball careers together, then went separate ways, but their paths often seemed to run in parallel, with both finding success at the college and WNBA levels. Through it all, whether playing or coaching, they have been the Lister sister assisters, helping teammates or players get buckets and reach new heights.
Written by Jenn Hatfield
Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided and Power Plays.