They may not actually be twins, but on the court, their games are nearly identical. This season, Silver Creek's brother-sister combo of Billy and Jordan Brooks has taken their games to new heights.
Jordan, at 6-foot, 2-inches, and Billy, 6-7, have towered over the competition with not only their height, but also with their superior basketball ability.
Jordan is a senior on the Black Knights girls' varsity basketball team. This season, she is averaging an impressive 22 points per game (ppg) and 15 rebounds per game (rpg). Going into the weekend, she had scored 831 points while pulling down 570 rebounds during her varsity career, which began in eighth grade.
OBSERVER Photo by Jeremy Izzio
Pictured above are Billy and Jordan Brooks, who are members of the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams at Silver Creek High School. Billy, a junior, and Jordan, a senior, are key reasons the Black Knights basketball teams have been successful this season.
After scoring 107 points during her seventh-grade season on the modified team, former Silver Creek girls' varsity coach Rich Norton decided it was time for Jordan to make the jump to varsity. She has been a starter on the varsity squad ever since.
"First and foremost was her size," Norton said of his decision to move her to the varsity level at such a young age. "I thought she was physically strong enough to be able to handle the rigors of varsity basketball. We also felt at that time that playing modified wouldn't really have benefitted her because of the shortened season and the level of competition.
"Any time you bring a young kid up to varsity, the question is if they can handle the stress mentally," Norton added. "Jordan has such an easy-going disposition; I felt it really wouldn't be a problem for her to handle that."
Billy began playing varsity basketball full-time last season as a sophomore and was a major contributor to a Silver Creek team that was ranked No. 2 in the state and went undefeated going into the state championship semifinals.
This season, Billy has continued to improve. He is averaging 21 ppg, 13 rpg and eight blocks per game, and has the Black Knights boys' basketball team poised to make another run deep into the playoffs.
Both Jordan and Billy have improved exponentially during their time at the varsity level in terms of raw athleticism and basketball acumen.
"Coming in as a young kid, he was already a foot taller than everyone his age by the time he was in fifth grade," Silver Creek coach Rob Genco said of his first impression of Billy. "At that point, his upper-body coordination and mechanics were already really, really good. I remember seeing him throw a football the entire length of the gym on a rope and going to (Silver Creek football coach) Sean Helmer and saying 'there is a kid that could be a quarterback some day. He's got it."'
While the upper body athleticism has always been there, like many kids that size at a young age, it took time for Billy's lower body to catch up.
"Because he was so tall, he lacked a lot of mobility and coordination," Genco said. "Over the last couple of years, I have seen him put it all together. His gait and the way he used to run, he looked like a baby giraffe. But now, just mechanics-wise, he's gotten better and better every year."
Jordan has come into her own athletically over the past couple of seasons, as well.
"She is much more fluid this year and runs the court very well," Silver Creek girls' basketball coach Tammy Rice said. "There are so many games where she doesn't even get a sub and is able to keep up. She posts up well in the lane and calls for the ball. The girls on the team are starting to learn where she wants to receive it and what type of pass she's looking for. She's made a lot of progress in that regard."
For Jordan, her height presented a unique set of challenges as a youth. Being a young girl who is a foot taller than everyone her age is not common and her fellow classmates frequently reminded her of that fact. By the age of 12, Jordan was already six-feet tall and towered over everyone her age.
"People would always comment about how I am taller than them and I used to get embarrassed because of the height difference," Jordan said. "But eventually I got used to it and have learned to embrace it."
On the basketball court, both Jordan and Billy have learned that their height can be a curse at times as much as it is a blessing.
From the time Jordan took the court as a varsity starter, she has been the focal point of every team she faces. The second she touches the ball in the post, she typically has two or three players draped on her chopping at her arms, taking shots at her body and, at times, literally pulling her hair in an effort to slow her down. All the while the referees seem to turn a blind eye.
"Sometimes, because she is that big, the referees think she can deal with (the excessive physical punishment) on the offensive side," Rice said. "A lot of times, she gets hit in places that other girls down low don't. The refs listen for a smack or a hit on the arm, but the problem is that Jordan is so tall that when she goes up for a shot, she's getting that contact to her body.
"On the defensive end, she has such long arms that when she goes up for anything, the refs are very quick with the whistle on what I would consider touch fouls," Rice added. "There are times where she will pick up three fouls in the first couple minutes of play."
Early in Jordan's career, she would let the physical toll, combined with the foul calls, or lack thereof, affect her game. But now, as a senior leader of the team, she has learned to persevere through it.
"She's really matured handling (the discrepancy in fouls) this year," Rice said. "Sometimes during games, she gets frustrated, but she handles it well. She takes a deep breath and just keeps working. I give her a lot of credit because there are some nights where she really takes some abuse down low and keeps plugging away."
Billy has also felt the curse of the big man during his career. Like his sister, Billy often has to power through aggressive defenders without getting calls while picking up multiple fouls on the defensive end for what frequently appear to be clean blocks.
"I've had to learn not to say much to the officials because that's not just at the high school level," Genco said. "The big man at every level (gets called differently than smaller players). Players who are that much taller than everyone else are going to get hit on the arm going up for a shot and it's not going to get called. And on the other end, it goes the other way. That's just the nature of the beast."
Arguably the strongest point of both Billy's and Jordan's games is their ability to dominate at the defensive end of the floor. Both players control the game with their ability to block and alter shots. After rejecting a few shots early in the game, opposing players become timid in the lane and eventually avoid bringing the ball into the paint whatsoever.
Once teams begin to settle for outside shots, as opposed to higher-percentage inside shots, the game immediately swings in favor of the Black Knights.
"The one thing that sticks out is Billy's shot-blocking ability and his ability to track the basketball from the release off the offensive player's hand," Genco said. "He's got a knack for it. You just don't see double-digit blocks out of a kid every night like he puts out."
"She's an excellent rebounder," Rice said. "She works hard on the boards, but to me she is a shot blocker in the lane. Even when she's not blocking shots, she's altering shots with just her pure size. When she gets her hands up, she's seven-feet tall and that tends to make people nervous. She's really good about maintaining her position in the lane."
Their games may have come full-circle over the course of their varsity careers, but the foundation was laid years ago.
Basketball has long been a family affair for Jordan and Billy. Their careers began on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, where they played in a co-ed league at the Saylor Building.
Jordan, who was nine years old when she began playing in the league, and Billy, who was eight, played on the same team along with their cousins and were coached by their uncle.
"They treated me like I was just another guy," Jordan said of competing against boys at a young age. "It made me tougher and more aggressive."
When asked if he was competitive with his sister growing up, Billy claims he took it easy on Jordan, with a smile that hints to the fact that was not necessarily the case.
"I've had to slap him around a few times," Jordan joked of her on-court battles with her brother Billy. "I push him ... scratch him ... I've learned to fight my own battles."
Billy also benefitted from playing with his two older brothers over the years.
"My game has changed a lot and I've had a lot of people help me out," Billy said. "My brothers told me I have to be more of a scorer, so I listened."
At times, Billy can take over a game for long stretches where it seems as though no one can stop him from scoring. The only thing that stops him from scoring more is the fact that he is an unselfish player and an incredible passer.
Passing is another facet of his game that gets credited to his older siblings. Billy has a rare ability to find the open shooter and deliver the ball on target for a player his size.
"Another thing I'm impressed with is his vision as a passer," Genco said. "It's pretty impressive how he sets up a play. The pass wouldn't be there if he didn't say 'I'm going to take the defender this way and if he takes a step, I'm going to make the pass.' He anticipates it before it's even there."
Both Jordan and Billy have already caught the eye of college scouts. Billy will continue to garner the attention of college coaches during his senior season, but Jordan already has multiple scholarship offers.
Western New York's Hilbert College and Monroe Community College have offered Jordan scholarships, as well as Division I Colby Community College in Colby, Kan.
With Jordan's senior season in its twilight, and Billy only having his senior season remaining, the Brooks duo's days at Silver Creek may be numbered, but their basketball careers are just beginning.