Comparing the 2019-20 seasons of the West Coast Conference’s many twins
Who caused the most “double trouble” for opponents last year—and who could challenge that this fall?
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Last February, the Loyola Marymount women’s basketball team played San Francisco, Pepperdine, and Gonzaga in the span of two weeks in West Coast Conference (WCC) play. After that particular three-game stretch, it’d be understandable if some of the Lions players booked appointments with an eye doctor, complaining of double vision.
That’s because San Francisco and Pepperdine each have a set of twins on their rosters—and Gonzaga has two sets. All four sets will return next year, and the conference will add more in Portland freshmen Jacksen and Tyler McCliment-Call and San Diego freshman Laura Erikstrup, whose twin Sydney will play at Arizona State.
This is a special edition of my long-running series comparing players from the same family. I’ve covered some big families before, but never twins and never so many players at once. Let’s meet each of the returning pairs of twins before evaluating how they stack up. Then we can look at the newcomers in a conference that is quietly becoming the nation’s best for twins.
The WCC’s Returning Twins
Marta and Marija Galic, San Francisco
Hailing from Zagreb, Croatia, the Galics will enter their third year at San Francisco in 2020-21. Marta, a 6’ guard/forward, redshirted last season, but as a true freshman she averaged 6.6 points per game on 44% shooting (36% from 3-point range) and added 1.1 steals per game. Marija, a 6’ forward, has played just 20 career games, but against Loyola Marymount last January, she memorably scored 12 points in just 24 minutes on 5-for-9 shooting.
Both sisters have also played for the Croatian U20 national team as well as professionally in their hometown.
Jayla and Jayda Ruffus-Milner, Pepperdine
As high schoolers, the Ruffus-Milner twins were described as impossible to tell apart, pepertually positive, and “downright scary” on the basketball court. They always wanted to play together in college and keep using their “twin telepathy,” as Jayda called it in 2016. She explained, “We know where we’re going to go and what we’re going to do.”
Like the Galics, the Ruffus-Milners will enter their third season of college next year, both as redshirt sophomores. Jayla received more playing time last season, averaging 5.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in 25 minutes of action. Despite being a 5’10 guard, she grabbed 2.5 offensive rebounds per game, which ranked in the 93rd percentile nationally. Jayda, in her eight minutes per game, recorded only 1.5 points per game but had a steal rate (3.0%) that ranked in the 92nd percentile nationally.
Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth, Gonzaga
The Wirths are the most experienced, tallest (6’3), and likely most well-known twins in the WCC. The rising senior forwards each averaged over 25 minutes per game last season for Gonzaga, and one of their top skills is blocking shots: they combined to average 1.7 blocks per game, and each twin ranked in the 85th percentile in block rate.
However, early in their college careers, they had to compete against each other for playing time and for a single starting spot, which they admitted was a challenge. Even growing up, they avoided going head-to-head. Jenn explained, “We ended in an argument every single time. We're so competitive. It would end up carrying over off the court for days after.”
Last season, the twins were able to play more together. “They work really well with each other,” head coach Lisa Fortier said earlier this year. “…They love to joke that it’s a twin thing. I think that’s their way of lobbying for more minutes on the court.”
Jenn averaged 10.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game, while LeeAnne averaged 8.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.4 steals. Their head coach, Lisa Fortier, describes Jenn’s game as more physical and offensive-minded and LeeAnne’s as more finesse and defensive-minded. But both players have guard skills to go along with their tall frames, thanks to three older sisters who all played college basketball and preached the importance of being able to handle the ball.
Kayleigh and Kaylynne Truong, Gonzaga
As high schoolers, the Truongs said that having a twin helped them on the court, not only because of that “twin telepathy” that Jayda Ruffus-Milner described, but also with the mental side of the game. “I know I’ll have someone that has my back,” Kaylynne said. Kayleigh added, “I think having somebody with me … gives me a more relaxed mind, knowing the pressure wouldn’t be on just me.”
The Truongs wanted to go to the same college from the start, just like the Wirths—Kaylynne Truong and LeeAnne Wirth both used the phrase “package deal” to describe their recruitment. And when the Truongs, now rising sophomores, took their official visit to Gonzaga, they stayed with the Wirths. “It was just super fun to have another set of twins around,” Jenn Wirth told the Inlander. “They kind of understand, like, the jokes and the stupid comments that people have.”
It’s conceivable that all four Truongs and Wirths could play together at times, with the Wirths in the frontcourt, Kayleigh at point guard, and Kaylynne at shooting guard. Kayleigh played nearly 22 minutes per game last season and averaged 6.0 points, 2.7 assists, and 1.1 steals. Fortier has described her as a natural leader and a confident playerwho is unafraid to take risks.
Kaylynne, on the other hand, is more of a perfectionist, according to Fortier. She’s also a lights-out shooter who averaged nearly 20 points per game as a high school senior. She played only 14.4 minutes per game as a freshman last season, but she made 43.9% of her 3-point attempts, which ranked 45th nationally.
Which Twins Have Bragging Rights in the WCC?
Last season, the Herald and News reported that there were 13 sets of twins in Division I women’s basketball. Over 30% of those twins played in the West Coast Conference, and Gonzaga was the only team in the country that had two sets of twins.
The Zags certainly benefited from the Wirths’ and the Truongs’ play: they finished with a 28-3 record, won the WCC regular-season title, and were projected by The Next CERTIFIED BRACKETOLOGIST Russ Steinberg as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
But which twins in the WCC were most dominant last year—and who will be the biggest case of double trouble next season?
To answer the first question, I gathered each twin’s statistics from last season using Her Hoop Stats. I then added up their individual points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks to measure each pair’s impact on the game. (I averaged their games played and the advanced stats for which adding does not make sense.) The top performance in each statistical category is highlighted.
Note: Marta Galic’s statistics are from the 2018-19 season because she redshirted the 2019-20 season. All statistics are from Her Hoop Stats except for the team records, which are from the West Coast Conference website.
The Wirths have two notable advantages in this comparison: experience and size. They have one to two seasons’ more experience and are at least three inches taller than the other twins in this comparison. But seniority and height don’t automatically lead to playing time, so it is still notable that the Wirths combined for the most minutes (52.7 per game) and got the most touches (22.2% average usage rate) in 2019-20.
The Wirths made the most of those opportunities, combining for nearly 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. They led all other WCC twins in rebounding rate and block rate by healthy margins while still making one-third of their 3-point attempts. And their Zags were 4-0 against Pepperdine and San Francisco en route to the regular-season conference title, winning by an average of 22.3 points per game.
The Truongs also get credit for the Zags’ success, of course, and other than the Wirths, they were the most impactful twins in the conference. They led the way in assists per game, 3-point shooting percentage, assist rate, and steal rate, and they tied the Wirths in steals per game while playing fewer minutes. The Truongs were also more efficient scorers than the Wirths, as measured by points per scoring attempt and effective field goal percentage (which accounts for the added value of 3-pointers).
However, the most efficient twins were the Galics, who played the fewest combined minutes (30.3 per game) but still averaged 8.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Their 1.09 points per scoring attempt would have ranked in the 85th percentile last season as an individual statistic, on par with WNBA prospects such as Duke’s Haley Gorecki, Tennessee’s Rennia Davis, and Baylor’s Te’a Cooper. And the Galics’ 53.4% effective field goal percentage would have ranked in the 90th percentile, just 0.2% behind South Carolina’s Mikiah Herbert Harrigan.
The next step for the Galics—like the Ruffus-Milners and even the Truongs—will be to carve out bigger roles. The statistics suggest that the Galics have that potential. In addition, the late college basketball coach Al McGuire famously said, “The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.” While they were not all technically freshmen last season, the Galics, Ruffus-Milners, and Truongs are all early in their college careers and could make big leaps next season.
While the Wirths topped this statistical comparison, they will face even more competition next season for the title of the WCC’s best twins.
Jacksen and Tyler McCliment-Call, Portland
The McCliment-Calls finished high school in Gonzaga’s backyard in Spokane, Washington, but they will join the 2020 WCC Tournament champion Portland Pilots. Tyler, at 6’0, is two inches taller than Jacksen, but both play the guard position and are “great teammates and tireless workers,” according to Portland head coach Michael Meek. He described Tyler as versatile and intense and Jacksen as “a fantastic shooter.”
Meek has only been at Portland for one season, but he surely hopes that the McCliment-Calls will help the program build on last season’s conference tournament championship.
Laura Erikstrup, San Diego
Erikstrup is a 6’2 forward from Portland, Oregon, but like the McCliment-Calls, she did not choose the WCC program closest to home. Instead, she signed with San Diego because of its “true family feel” as well as “the location and the sunshine.”
Erikstrup also has experience with the U18 Danish national team, and she could be asked to contribute at USD right away as San Diego looks to replace its top three rebounders from last season. Her high school coach, Kathy Adelman Naro, told OregonLive in April, “Laura can battle physically with anyone, but she is also extremely light on her feet and explosive and quick.”
Laura’s game is rather different from that of her twin sister Sydney, an Arizona State commit who guarded all five positions and scored and distributed from all over the court. Sydney told KPTV that she and Laura have complementary games, with Laura on the receiving end of many of Sydney’s passes.
However, the twins are going their separate ways for college, which Laura called “difficult” but surmountable with the help of FaceTime. What they didn’t count on, though, was the premature end to their high school careers due to the coronavirus. “I didn't really think that [the state quarterfinal] was the last time I would play with my sister again,” Laura said. “That after 18 years of having her by my side, that was kind of like, what? You're telling me that's how we ended?”
The Outlook for 2020-21
If Sydney Erikstrup had followed her sister to the WCC, the conference could’ve had a dozen twins in 2020-21. Instead, it will settle for 11, which will very likely be the most of any conference. Half of the conference’s ten teams will have at least one twin, which adds an intriguing subplot to the WCC race: how many twins will appear on the court together, and which come out on top?
As The Next’s Christine Hopkins reported earlier this offseason, Gonzaga is primed for another excellent season. If that pans out, the Wirths will likely be a big reason why and could easily repeat as the WCC’s top twins. However, there is depth both on the Zags’ roster and across the conference, and it’s conceivable that some of the other twins could improve enough to challenge the Wirths’ individual and team success.
We’ll have to wait about six months to see this all play out, but in the meantime, check those alarm clock batteries to make sure you’re ready for late-night West Coast games. While you’re at it, go ahead and check that your eyewear prescription is up to date, so that when you see two identical players, you know it’s double trouble and not double vision.
Families previously featured in this series include 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.