DeKALB – It took about a year before Northern Illinois men’s basketball coach Mark Montgomery was able to tell Kevin and Keith Gray apart.
It definitely is understandable, as the twin NIU sophomore forwards stand at 6-foot-8 and both are listed at 225 pounds. Now in his second season in DeKalb, Montgomery has figured out some small differences between the two, but it still can be a challenge – especially when both have the same haircut.
“I can tell them apart from their facial structure, as long as I’m seeing the front of their face,” Montgomery said. “But from behind, if they don’t have a number on, it’s hard to tell.”
Even if Montgomery has times when he can’t tell the difference and gets them mixed up, the Gray brothers certainly understand.
“We just answer by ‘Yes, coach,’ ” Kevin Gray said. “Just go along with it.”
Keith Gray remembers when he and his brother were about 6 years old, playing against each other at their home. Growing up in Englewood on Chicago’s south side, Kevin Gray remembers watching Derrick Rose play at a park in the neighborhood.
The Gray twins began playing organized basketball on the same team in grammar school, and both were four-year varsity players at Brooks High School, leading the Eagles to a third-place finish at the IHSA Class 3A state tournament as seniors in 2011.
Over the years, both have gotten used to each other on the court. Kevin admits Keith shoots better than he does, but Kevin’s more aggressive on the inside. By now, the brothers have figured out the other one’s game.
“He knows what I’m going to do; I know what he’s going to do,” Keith said. “He knows where I’m going to be; I know where he’s going to be at.”
Keith Gray remembers when he and his brother started getting collegiate looks in their sophomore seasons. By the time the two were seniors, they decided they were going to be a package deal.
However, only a handful of schools wanted both. One was NIU, as Huskies assistant Todd Townsend had recruited both when Ricardo Patton still had the head coaching job.
Townsend stayed on staff when Montgomery was hired, and the Grays decided to stay close to home and come to DeKalb.
This season, Kevin Gray is averaging 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds a game. Keith averages 4.2 points and 2.6 rebounds.
One thing Montgomery sees in both is upside, with their size and length. He saw the same thing when the twins got to NIU, and expects it to materialize in their junior and senior seasons.
Over the summer, Montgomery said Keith and Kevin are planning to stay on campus, utilizing the weight room and putting on bulk, something the coach said will help their games the next two years.
“I think both players can be double-figure scorers. They’ve reached doubles a few times in their career. They’re always going to be leading rebounders because they have a nose for the ball, and they don’t mind seeking contact,” Montgomery said. “They have some good basketball left in them. It’s going to pay dividends when they put on strength.”