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Benefield: Windsor has twin engines in Riley, Justin Smith

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They look similar, but different at the same time. And it’s not just the identical dress pants.

Juniors Riley and Justin Smith are twins. At a normal practice, they look very much like each other, but working out on the basketball court Thursday afternoon, their similarities were exaggerated.

Both wore black dress slacks, no shirt and running shoes while tossing in threes in the Windsor High School gymnasium.

It seems the Smiths, hyper-intelligent twins with grade point averages of 4.0-plus, forgot their practice shorts for the Jaguars’ pre-game shootaround. They were wearing dress clothes, including ties, for a presentation in honors chemistry.

Not wanting to slow down practice, they got after it in their slacks until mom Christe Smith arrived with shorts and tanks — in different colors.

“When you are playing with your twin brother, people get you confused on the court,” Justin Smith said.

“It can work to our advantage,” Riley Smith said. “Our opponents can get us mixed up.”

And giving the Smith twins an advantage over and above their size and agility seems downright unfair.

They are 6-foot-7, although Riley is rumored to have perhaps a half inch and 10 pounds on his twin.

Maybe that’s payback for his being born a minute after his brother.

Riley is averaging more than 19 points and nearly seven rebounds per game for the Jaguars, who were 6-2 in preseason play going into Thursday night’s home game against Mt. Diablo. Justin is posting an average of nearly 13 points per game and 6.5 rebounds.

“They are long, they are athletic,” coach Travis Taylor said of his twin towers.

“We play through them,” he said. “It’s been a conscious, focused effort to stay on them about demanding the ball, looking to score first and drawing the double team before looking to kick it out.”

Riley is a lefty and Justin a righty. Both can dribble, both can shoot from the outside and both move in transition. In fact, Taylor said if anything, they need to work on remembering that they are 6-foot-7 and can bang it around in the paint.

The Jaguars are likely to lean heavily on the Smith brothers if they want to defend their North Bay League title. They open league play on the road against Casa Grande on Jan. 4.

Their only losses this season have been to Fremont on Dec. 2 and a 48-36 loss to league rival Cardinal Newman in the Rose City Tournament on Dec. 10.

That game was a bit of an eye-opener for Riley Smith, according to Taylor.

“We played Newman in the Rose City Tournament and it was, ‘Holy cow, they are double- teaming me,’ ” Taylor said. “It’s not going to be easy for him. He’s going to be the centerpoint of pretty much everyone’s game plan.”

“The secret is out,” Taylor said.

Riley was the sixth man on the Jaguars’ championship team last year while Justin played on the JV squad, where he poured in points by the bucket load. So while opposing coaches may have a bead on Riley, facing the brotherly tandem might pose a challenge.

“We need to utilize our length. We have two 6-7 guys,” senior forward Brock Tolson said. “We are probably the biggest team in the NBL, we just need to figure out how to use it to our advantage.”

“I think we have the potential to win a league championship like we did last year,” Tolson said.

Taylor called the Smiths intelligent, hardworking basketball junkies who know each other’s game inside out. And both are gaining confidence.

That may come as a result of playing against one of the best players around day in and day out.

“Facing someone who knows exactly what you are going to do really stretches your creativity,” Justin Smith said.

“I really like his style of play, it matches mine,” he said. “We are both really good at seeing each other. We both drive and dish and we see each other really well.”

Riley called his twin his “biggest competitor.”

He’s certainly his longest-standing foe.

The Smith boys have been playing with and against each other in organized basketball since the third grade.

I wondered if there is something to that whole sharing-a-womb-for-nine-months thing, and whether it lends to a sixth sense about the other twin.

When the ball leaves Riley’s hand, does Justin know if it’s going in, and if not, where it’s headed?

Nothing that divine, Justin said. It’s more of a timing thing.

“I’m not as intimidating as my brother so I can just fade into the background,” he said. “I really like to get the offensive rebounds and put it back.”

And Riley Smith takes that as a green light to let fly.

“If I miss, Justin is there to pick it up,” he said.

After all, that’s what brothers are for.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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