Chemistry is one of the biggest necessities in sports for building a winning team. You can’t get much better chemistry than having your own family out on the court with you.
Jallisa and Sharniece Lewis are twin sisters who are both playing basketball for Western. Sharniece was born just two minutes after Jallisa 21 years ago. They’ve been playing together almost every minute since.
Even though they grew up playing softball, track and had scholarships for soccer, they knew basketball was what they would continue with after high school.
“We have five older brothers who all played basketball,” Jallisa said. “So we just picked it up.”
Unlike most siblings, they were fine playing together when they were kids. In fact, they were always on the same team, going back to when they first started throwing the ball around in seventh grade.
After high school, they both played for State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo. The first and only time they ever played on separate teams was just last season, when Sharniece decided to attend Highland Community College.
“I just wanted to get a new feel of somewhere new,” Sharniece said.
They both learned a lot about their own game while being apart from each other. Most importantly, they realized that ultimately, being together made them better players.
“It was really different,” Jallisa said. “Because when we played together, I always had someone I knew who could relate to me or predict what I could do, or I could predict what she could do. It was different not having someone like that.”
They both realized how they were meant to play together when the current basketball coach at Western, Rob Edmisson, contacted them.
Coach Edmisson first called Jallisa to see if she was interested in a visit.
“I told him I was interested in a visit and then he asked if I knew a girl named Sharniece,” Jallisa said. “I told him, ‘Yes, that’s my twin sister.’ So he recruited us at the same time but we didn’t know it yet.”
Even though they were being recruited at the same time, they weren’t being recruited together, like most people would assume.
“We told them we were recruiting them separately,” Edmisson said. “It wasn’t a package deal. In fact, we’d call the house and talk to one of them, hang up and call back to talk to the other one. We wanted to make sure they both knew and felt they were being recruited individually.”
Sharniece was especially impressed with what the coach had to offer. It was enough for her to change her plans to go a different direction.
“He seemed different, but in a good way,” Sharniece said. “When we first came here we were very interested. At first I was going to sign to a different school in Minnesota and the more I talked to him and our new teammates I felt very comfortable, and I knew I wanted to be a part of this program.”
When combining the sisters, there is a wide range of skills that are covered between the both of them. Jallisa is a post player while Sharniece is a guard. Each of their individual skills makes up for where the other one lacks. They also have played so much together that they can tell when the other one is off their game, often before the coach or other players can tell.
Off the court their interests are still pretty similar. While Jallisa is majoring in psychology and Sharniece is majoring in Physical Education, they both have the same family priorities when they aren’t in school.
“We really enjoy being with our family,” Sharniece said. “Anytime we get a chance to do something with our family, we take it.”
When it comes down to it, that became their biggest comfort when playing for Western. The fact that Coach Edmisson is family oriented and cares greatly about building team chemistry really helped them to dig deep and bring out all their passion to put into their game.
“Our coach always says ‘this is a family’ and I feel like when I’m away from home, this really is my family,” Jallisa said.