November 24, 2020
Tik, Tok: It’s time for a Cavinder comparison
Fresno State’s Haley and Hanna Cavinder are identical twins who produce nearly identical stats
Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited, and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives, and projections about the game we love.
Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues, and grows. Subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
Fresno State sophomores Haley and Hanna Cavinder have 2.3 million followers on their shared TikTok account and 147,000 apiece on Instagram. That’s about three times more TikTok followers than the WNBA (732,300) and about twice as many Instagram followers as WNBA players Stefanie Dolson (56,700), Diamond DeShields (64,400), and Natasha Cloud (74,000).
Most of the Cavinders’ TikTok content involves dancing, but basketball is also a big component. They are often wearing team-issued gear or filming from the Fresno State gym or locker room. On Instagram, they often post about games and offseason workouts, with captions such as “[I’d] rather be the hunter than the prey” and “Rent is due everyday [sic].”
The Cavinders started playing basketball at a young age, reportedly choosing driveway practices over episodes of “Sesame Street.” As sixth-graders, they played against girls two to three years older than them and were unfazed, showing off Euro-steps and other moves that Kyle Pedersen, their coach at Gilbert (Az.) High School, said he’d never seen from players that age.
Their stars continued to rise in high school: Gilbert was the state runner-up in 2019, the twins’ senior year, and both twins earned All-Arizona honors, including Haley’s selection as 5A Player of the Year. Despite standing just 5’6, Haley averaged 21.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game as a senior, while Hanna was right on her heels with 21.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 3.0 steals per game.
“Their style of play is upbeat, fast, aggressive, very physical,” Pedersen said. “They shoot well beyond NBA [range] consistently … [and] raise the level of everybody around them.”
ESPN ranked Haley as the 27th-best guard in her class coming out of high school and Hanna as the 71st. Pac-12 schools such as Arizona, Oregon State, and the University of Southern California expressed interest, but some schools that were recruiting Haley weren’t as interested in Hanna. That was a deal-breaker for the twins, as it was “always a dream” of theirs to play college basketball together. So they chose Fresno State instead—and headed there with the feeling that they had something to prove.
“I think we both felt like we were underdogs,” Haley said in April. “Everyone just looked at our size more than our game in high school. And so just going in, proving at the college level that we could make a name for ourselves.”
When the twins got to college, Fresno State head coach Jaime White wasn’t exactly sure where they would fit in the rotation. She knew they were “dynamic” and “extremely competitive,” especially on offense, and some offseason personnel losses had freed up minutes at guard. “The question was, are we going to rotate guards? How are we going to play them together?” White said.
White decided to start both Cavinders alongside another 5-6 point guard, junior Aly Gamez, and it paid off to the tune of a 25-7 record (16-2 in the Mountain West Conference). “They’ve made us quicker, better ball handlers, better passers in general,” White said in February.
Haley was named Mountain West Freshman of the Year and made both the All-Mountain West and All-Freshman Teams after averaging 16.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. According to Fresno State Athletics, she ranked among the top 20 freshmen in Division I in each of those categories. Hanna joined her on both postseason teams and contributed 15.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Their total points for the season—512 and 502, respectively—were the top two freshman totals in Fresno State history.
For White, the Cavinders’ intangibles are just as impressive as their statistics. “They both are extremely tough,” she said in January. “… And their leadership – they have no fear, so they can step on a floor, and they have good confidence, and they really are ready to play and play hard and do whatever it takes.”
While White has only two Cavinder sisters at her disposal, the family has enough to fill out a starting lineup: Brooke and Brandi are the oldest, followed by the twins and youngest sister Natalie. Brandi, two years older than the twins, played alongside them for two seasons at Gilbert High School, and although she averaged just a few points per game, Pedersen called her “a tremendous workhorse” who set an example for her teammates.
But from Brandi’s perspective, it was the twins who were examples for her. “Even though I’m older than them, I still look up to them,” she said during her junior season. “They’ll do some cool stuff, and they’ll teach it to me … we just get along really well.”
The twins also provided some levity for their high school teammates, and their methods likely won’t surprise anyone who follows them on TikTok. Pedersen revealed, “We’ll be doing a drill and they’ll just be cracking the whip or doing whatever dance move. When they’re done with weights, they’ll form a team video doing dance stuff, and they’ll sing on the bus, and they’re always doing goofy stuff like that.”
The twins spent this past offseason at home in Arizona, working out together on their backyard court. But despite being built-in training partners—not to mention each other’s main competition for Mountain West Freshman of the Year last season—they don’t like to measure themselves against one another.
“We just try not to, honestly, because we get it so much from other people constantly comparing us,” Hanna told YourCentralValley.com. “So I think we just try to be so supportive of each other in everything that we do.”
Sorry, Hanna, but comparisons are inevitable in my family rivalry series—and, as it turns out, this is one of the closest races we’ve ever had.
It’s hard to overstate how similar the twins’ statistics are. Besides Haley’s 10-point edge in total points, Hanna played 25 more minutes than Haley last season and finished with just one more assist and two more turnovers. They also both played in all 32 games and started all but one, a win over Nevada on Senior Day.
Haley and Hanna split the shooting categories nearly evenly, with Haley having a slightly higher scoring average and usage rate (25.8%) and Hanna shooting a higher percentage (43.5%) and being more efficient (1.03 points per scoring attempt). Yet their shot selections were very different. “I’m more of the physical, get the rebound, I’ll hit the three,” Haley said in February. “But Hanna’s shot—she can hit the three, but she’s shown more of driving in.”
Indeed, Haley attempted 248 3-pointers to Hanna’s 103, whereas Hanna shot about twice as many free throws as Haley. Both strategies paid off: Haley shot about 13 percentage points better than Hanna from the 3-point range, but Hanna had a 14-point advantage at the free-throw line.
As was the case in high school, Haley was the better rebounder for Fresno State last season, which allowed her to jump-start the Bulldogs’ transition game. (Haley actually ranked second on the team in rebounding with 7.3 per game and had six double-doubles despite being one of the shortest players on the roster.) But Hanna also led the fast break off of her defense, as she averaged 1.8 steals per game to Haley’s 1.5.
Hanna believes that the twins’ uncanny statistical similarities are the natural result of training together. “We both love it and put in the same amount of work,” she said during her senior year of high school. “That shows why we’re so close in stats and assists or whatever. When I’m hooping, she’s hooping.”
The twins currently hold Fresno State freshman records in total points (Haley), total rebounds (Haley), and free throws made (Hanna) in a season, and they combined to rank among the top three players in the Mountain West in 14 statistical categories last season. Looking ahead to 2020-21, Haley made the five-player preseason All-Mountain West team alongside two juniors and two seniors.
The Cavinders clearly have the potential to do big things in basketball, but whenever they wrap up their playing careers, they have considered at least one path forward. “Me and Hanna want to open our own hotel,” Haley said in 2016. “We’ll call it ‘Twins Inn.’”
It’s no surprise that that plan involves both twins. As Hanna said last season, “We’re better together.” She was talking about on the court, but whether it’s basketball, TikTok, or the hospitality industry, the Cavinder twins always seem to be a lethal double-team.
All social media statistics are as of November 22, 2020.
Families previously featured in this series include Stephanie Mavunga and Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga, the McGees, the twins in the West Coast Conference, the Vanderquigs, Erica McCall and DeWanna Bonner, Chennedy Carter and Jia Perkins, the Joneses, the Samuelsons, the Ogwumikes (Part 1 and Part 2), and the Mabreys.
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. (She also writes the "Family Rivalries" series for The Next.) Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats and FanSided.