Stanford twins miss time together

by Murali Balaji

Five years ago, twin brothers Jason and Jermaine Stanford walked on with the Gophers men’s basketball team, continuing almost a lifetime of playing basketball together.
For four years, the twins earned a reputation for their work ethic and their ability to complement one another. Then, before the start of the 1998-99 season, Jermaine Stanford announced his departure from the team to focus on his academics.
“We both contemplated the decision to leave and concentrate on school,” Jason Stanford said. “We both had the ideas in our mind, but Jermaine took the initiative.”
Jermaine’s departure created a void in Jason heart, one that made him feel empty every time he stepped onto the court this season. The thought of playing without his twin brother seemed almost inconceivable, a concept that Jason still struggles to grasp.
“Playing without Jermaine is something that has been hard to get used to,” Jason said. “Jermaine and I have done everything together, and not to have him next to me on the bench … man, it’s been real difficult for me to handle.”
It’s a feeling that Jermaine, who attended every home game this season, shares.
“I think he’d be doing a lot better if I was out there with him,” Jermaine said. “When you played so long together, you kind of complement each other.”
Friends and teammates also noticed the change in Jason after his brother’s departure. Ruby Diaz, a close friend of the twins, said she could feel the pain that separation had brought on the twins.
“It made me feel sad for them because I know they loved being together,” Diaz said. “It means a lot to them to be close to each other.”
Gophers’ coach Clem Haskins, who utilized the Stanford twins as defensive specialists throughout their careers, applauded Jermaine Stanford’s choice. For Haskins, it was the logical way to go for Stanford.
“Jermaine needs to focus on keeping his grades,” Haskins said. “He’s going to graduate with a high G.P.A. and an engineering degree from this University. Jermaine Stanford is a young man who has a bright future ahead of him, but it’s not on the basketball court.”
The separation of the Stanford twins on the court has also made them more distant off of it. Despite having many of the same classes within the Institute of Technology (both twins are electrical engineering majors), Jason’s frequent road trips and onerous practice schedule have made it hard for him to spend time with his main study partner.
“We’ve kind of grown apart since I’ve been away,” Stanford said. “Now, we just get together and compare notes as much as possible.”
Even though he is now relieved of the burden of being a student-athlete, Jermaine’s schedule doesn’t necessarily mean more free time. As an intern with Honeywell Corporation, Stanford is gearing up for his postgraduate career in the engineering field, usually working between 20 and 25 hours per week.
“I spend a lot of time working, so that is really taking up my hours now,” Stanford said. “But I do study a lot more than I used to. I’m the type of person who studies alone.”
Jason Stanford will join his brother in graduating after this year, but with the Big Ten tournament beginning Thursday and a likely trip to the NCAA tournament next week, he will be counted on to continue his on-court contributions. At last year’s conference tourney, Stanford scored a career-high eight points against Michigan State and added a career-high nine rebounds against Michigan.
“Last year, Jason Stanford stepped up and had the game of his career,” forward Quincy Lewis said. Stanford believes that he will again be equal to the task come tournament time.
“I always had the belief that I was a good player,” he said. “It always feels good to contribute and help the team win.”