Women’s basketball twins help each other away from home

Freshman guards Emani and Nicolette Mayo live together and play for the Owls.

Freshman guard Emani Mayo (left) high-fives her twin sister and freshman guard Nicolette Mayo as she steps off the court during the Owls’ 86-64 win against Harvard University at McGonigle Hall on Saturday. | JAMIE COTTRELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Emani Mayo is right-handed, and Nicolette Mayo is left-handed. Nicolette is outgoing while Emani is shy. Emani is a scorer, while Nicolette focuses more on defense.

When it comes to the twin freshman guards, the list of differences between Emani and Nicolette may be shorter to write out since the two have so much in common.

“We’ve always been together our whole lives, since we were born,” Nicolette said. “There’s nothing she hasn’t done that I haven’t done.”

Emani and Nicolette both started playing basketball at age 5. They also both tried softball and track together. They even finished next to each other in their high school’s graduating class of 2017. By the end of the year, Emani was the valedictorian and Nicolette was second in the class.

Now, the Mayo sisters are living and playing basketball together at Temple. Nicolette Mayo joined the team as a walk-on, while Emani is on scholarship.

The two grew up in Hephzibah, Georgia, a town of 4,000 people. Because their hometown is so far away — about a 12-hour drive — having each other at Temple has made their transition to college more comfortable.

“It’s like home, coming to Philadelphia,” Emani said. “We’ve been together for 18 years, so it’s really nice to have her here.”

Growing up playing basketball together, the twins pushed each other to be their best. During their senior seasons, both were captains for Hephzibah High School. On their own time, the sisters practiced together and challenged each other.

“When we would play one-on-one, she knew some of my moves, I knew some of her moves,” Emani said. “It’s kind of fun to be competitive and push each other to work harder and get better.”

Since the start of the season, Emani has played in every game and has started the past four. She averages seven points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

“I’m really happy with how I’ve been playing,” Emani said. “I’ve been struggling offensively, but I’m going to pick it up later on. But for now, I’m going to keep playing defense.”

In Temple’s game against Harvard University on Saturday, Emani set new season-highs with seven rebounds and five assists.

Coach Tonya Cardoza is excited by the growth she has seen in her through the first eight games.

“Emani is one of the most coachable players on the team,” Cardoza said. “She understands, she grasps things, she listens.”

Together, Nicolette and Emani bring a lot of energy to the team as well as a strong work ethic, Cardoza said. They stayed after practice shooting around after other players had started to file off the court on Friday.

Because Nicolette is a walk-on, she has not had as much playing time as her sister. Nicolette has seen action in three games and nabbed a rebound in Temple’s win against Harvard.

Even though Nicolette’s stat line doesn’t show it, she has made an invaluable impact on the team and her sister in particular, Cardoza said.

“I think for E, it was the best thing because I don’t know if her transition from home to here would’ve been as well as it has been if her sister hadn’t been here,” Cardoza said. “I don’t know if E would be blossoming the way that she is. I really don’t.”

Emani and Nicolette are in an uncommon situation, as there are only 18 other sets of sisters and only three other sets of twins in Division I women’s basketball.

After Emani committed to Temple, Nicolette wasn’t sure if she was going to join her. Cardoza told Nicolette she could be a walk-on, but Nicolette could’ve played more for another school.

Even though there was some doubt in Nicolette’s mind, Emani was confident she knew what her sister’s decision would be.

“At first, we weren’t sure, but I kind of always knew, though,” Emani said. “She can’t leave me, you know, she has to come.”

The decision has proven to be a good one for both, as they are enjoying their time at Temple and on the team. Even though the two spend a lot of time together and argue like any siblings would, the bond between them is still strong.

“They say this is like the best time of your life, so I wouldn’t want to spend it with anybody else,” Nicolette said. “You’ve got to enjoy the time that you have together, because you never know how everything’s going to come into place as time goes on.”

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