When they were little kids, they'd fight over anything and
everything, such as which one was better at board games or whose
turn it was to tidy up the bedroom. These days they can still go
12 rounds over which direction to turn at a stop sign. At no
time, however, does familiarity breed more contempt between Penn
State guards Joe and Jon Crispin than when they square off on the
basketball court. Says their father, Steve, "I can't remember a
single game of one-on-one that ever got finished."
Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, for whom the Crispin brothers
make up the starting backcourt, the sibling rivals are also
pretty good teammates. That was never truer than on Nov. 25, when
Joe, a senior, and Jon, a sophomore, scored 31 and 26 points,
respectively--both career highs--and made a combined 13 of 23
three-pointers in a 73-68 win at Kentucky. Eleven days later Joe
scored 36 in an 88-74 defeat of Pitt. The Crispins may not be
turning Happy Valley into the city of brotherly love, but in
providing over 40% of the 5-1 Nittany Lions' points and nearly
two thirds of Penn State's three-pointers, they're proving to be
a formidable team within the team.
Shared DNA aside, the Crispin brothers could hardly be more
different. Whereas Jon is the life of the party, Joe is the life
of the Bible-study group. When Jon was still at Pitman (N.J.)
High, he visited Joe frequently at Penn State, and he would
usually end up going to frat parties with Joe's buddies while Joe
stayed home. This Halloween, Jon dressed up as an athletic
supporter, donning Penn State garb and a jockstrap stuffed with
hats and socks. Joe, on the other hand, eschewed a costume and
simply wore a flannel shirt and jeans. "We don't even look
alike," Joe says.
Their playing styles are also a study in contrasts. Joe is the
point guard, a steady anchor who was lightly recruited while
leading Pitman to a Group I state championship in his senior
year. Last season Joe led the Big Ten in foul shooting (89.2%)
and was third in scoring average (18.5 points a game). Jon, a
shooting guard, is a better athlete than his brother, but he's
more likely to let his emotions get the best of him. He also
garnered considerably more recruiting interest until a back
injury suffered before his senior year frightened off many of his
more prominent suitors, including Kentucky.
When Jon announced he would follow Joe to Penn State, the boys'
parents wondered aloud whether that was a good idea. Jon,
however, saw the advantages in teaming up. "We've always made
each other better," he says. "Besides, I'd been up there so
often, the other players were calling me a third-year freshman."
For all their differences, the Crispins share a competitive
desire that shines through when they are fighting someone other
than each other. When their mother, Sue, congratulated Joe after
the Kentucky win, he surprised her by replying, "Jon really came
Says Sue, "That was neat because Joe rarely gives Jon a direct
compliment. It showed me that they really do have a mutual
respect. If they were choosing teams in a pickup game, one
brother would choose the other."
COLOR PHOTO: CHRIS USHER Joe (left) averages 21.0 points a game, and Jon chips in with 11.2.