DALLAS -- This wasn't supposed to happen again. Michael and Marcus Weathers agree, it's "crazy" they're back living in the same apartment and playing for the same team five years after they made the difficult decision to separate and everything that happened next. If not for the extra year of eligibility given to athletes because of COVID-19 disruptions in 2020, they wouldn't be reunited here on SMU's campus as sixth-year seniors wearing matching black puffy jackets, sitting side-by-side at a conference table, scratching their faces in unison and finishing each other's sentences in the way that only twins are capable.
They had no fallback plan. It all just kind of ... worked out.
"It's a blessing," Marcus says.
Michael nods along. They considered trying out for the G League, but when the opportunity to play one last season together presented itself, they jumped at the chance.
"We leave it up to God," Michael says. "This whole journey, he's been showing us the way."
They're fraternal twins, not identical. Michael is skinny and outgoing. Marcus is stocky and laid back. But their personalities mesh perfectly. As soon as they started playing basketball in elementary school, a synergy formed. Michael, an athletic guard, would handle the ball and shoot, while Marcus, a physically imposing forward, would rebound.
"I'm yin," Michael says, "he's yang."
They both laugh, which happens often during an hour-long interview they do in tandem because it's simply too much fun to call each other out. Michael boasts that he's the older brother by 7 minutes, and Marcus rolls his eyes.
"He's kind of like my bodyguard," Michael says.
"I like being the menacing type," Marcus says.
"And he's so big, it kind of works out," Michael says.
"Don't start nothing," Marcus says, dropping his voice, "won't be nothing."
The following evening at Moody Coliseum, they run out of the tunnel together for pre-game warmups, Marcus one step ahead of Michael. They proceed to follow one another in the lay-up line, and while the rest of the team is busy getting up jump shots later, they stand side-by-side near the 3-point arc chatting nonstop, Michael with one hand resting on Marcus' shoulder.
Former President George W. Bush is seated on the baseline for tipoff against Temple. Marcus starts out on fire, grabbing the game's first rebound, running the length of the court, finishing at the rim, drawing a foul and making the layup. Marcus converts the and-one, and Michael drops back on defense and blocks a 3-point attempt.
They feed off one another like this throughout the game as SMU goes on to win, 69-61. Michael finishes with 8 points and 9 rebounds. Marcus has a season-high 27 points to go along with 6.5 rebounds and two assists, and is later named AAC Co-Player of the Week.
This is what they'd always envisioned, what they'd hoped for all along: success, together. Their mother always told them, "Two heads are better than one."
So why then did they ever choose to part ways?
SMU coach Tim Jankovich has no clue.
"I'm shocked that they could have survived it to be honest," he says. "I'm surprised they both still have their sanity."
FOR MOST OF their first 19 years on this planet, Michael and Marcus were attached at the hip. Apart from those 7 minutes Michael waited on his brother's arrival, the only time they can remember being apart for any significant duration was a weekend camping trip Michael took in elementary school. Marcus stayed home and played video games. Michael saw a lot of deer. Neither of them enjoyed the experience.
They were always most comfortable together. When they weren't in school, they competed constantly, whether it was video games, wrestling or rounds of 1-on-1 basketball. One brother would win, the other would lose, get upset and start a fight. But the arguments never lasted long. From a young age, their mother, Joann, impressed upon them the importance of sticking together.
Their father, Michael Sr., died from an enlarged heart when they were 5 years old. They have fond memories of him making them breakfast and taking them to the park. Michael has a Power Rangers tattoo on the inside of his arm to commemorate the show they'd watch together.
The sepia-toned photos that serve as Michael and Marcus' Instagram profiles? That's their father, who was a star basketball player in the Kansas City area and played college ball at Drake. The boys don't remember seeing him compete, but they would hear about him often from strangers growing up.
"He was a hood legend," Marcus says. "He would go to the park in flip-flops, dunking on you in them Jesus sandals."
One such person who remembered the legend was then-Miami (Ohio) coach John Cooper. He was on the road recruiting in the Dakotas -- North or South, he can't be sure which -- when a buddy from back home in Kansas City phoned him to ask if he'd heard of the Weathers twins. Cooper said he hadn't and got the scoop.
Then it hit him.
"Are they any relationship to that bad man Michael Weathers?" Cooper asked, "bad" being a compliment in this case.
Cooper was floored when the answer was yes. As a boy, he watched Michael Weathers dominate at Southeast High School. He was one of Cooper's favorite players -- a lefty with a silky smooth jump shot and a spring in his step.
While Michael bears some resemblance to his father, Cooper said neither of the Weathers boys is an exact facsimile.
"But the athleticism, the tough nature?" Cooper said. "Yeah, they got that."
Michael and Marcus were standouts in their own right at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. Michael was 6-foot-3, had a lightning-quick first step and could score from anywhere on the court. Marcus was 2 inches taller, which meant he was slightly undersized for a forward, but he was a tenacious rebounder who could run the floor and handle the ball well.
Maybe it was because Michael was further along in his basketball development or maybe it was because he was easier to project at the next level, but whatever the case, he was the hotter commodity in recruiting circles, picking up multiple scholarship offers while Marcus gained only passing interest early on. More than a few college coaches tried to split them up, they said. Marcus would hear the chatter about how his brother was big time and he wasn't. He was proud of Michael, but he had no response to the notion that he was a package deal.
"I did kind of question, 'Is it gonna happen for me? Am I gonna have somebody noticing me?'" Marcus said.
It was non-negotiable that they stay together, though. Mom and the boys had agreed on that, which meant some schools wouldn't recruit them.
Cooper was interested in bringing them both to Miami, but that interest wasn't reciprocated in the beginning, and he backed off.
Then came the boys' senior season in which they starred on the court and struggled in the classroom. It was already asking a lot of colleges to hold open two scholarships, but throw in the fact that they were both potential non-qualifiers, and many coaches threw up their hands and walked away.
As Michael and Marcus were leading Shawnee through the playoffs, Cooper got a call from the same friend who tipped him off to the twins' existence years earlier, encouraging him to get back in on their recruitment. Cooper was noncommittal, but as soon as he got off the phone he got a text from both boys.
Cooper decided to go see them in person. They'd recently won the state championship and finished No. 1 and 2 all-time in scoring at Shawnee, but Cooper wasn't there to congratulate them. Instead, he delivered what can only be described as a fire-and-brimstone speech. At one point, he told them, "Someone would be a damn fool to take you both."
He said he'd be that fool, but only if they focused on academics and did everything he asked. Cooper wouldn't approve them taking time off for an official visit, which meant they didn't set foot on Miami's campus until the day they moved into their dorms.
On paper, their freshman year went well. Marcus played in all 32 games, starting nine times and averaging 9.7 points and 6.0 rebounds. Michael, meanwhile, led the team in scoring (16.7 PPG), assists (4.8 APG), steals (1.9 SPG) and blocks (1.4 BPG), and was named the MAC Freshman of the Year.
But behind the scenes, the transition to college had been a struggle. Marcus face-planted during their first team workout, falling over a chair, and broke down in tears after one particularly bad scrimmage. It took him a while to get settled and find his confidence. And while Michael had no such troubles getting up to speed, he was prone to the occasional slump, and it was always up to Marcus to calm him down and pull him out of the emotional tailspin.
They were both exhausted, and halfway through the season they considered quitting and transferring elsewhere together. They talked it out and decided to sit tight and see how they felt once the season was over. Miami finished 11-21, Cooper was fired and the choice to leave became that much easier.
But something else had changed during the second half of the season. Marcus said a feeling had been "festering" inside him for weeks. As it turns out, Michael had felt a shift, too.
It was ironic. Being away from home for the first time, they had grown so much closer, and yet for the first time in their lives they felt the need to go their separate ways.
"It's time," Marcus told his brother. "I need to go do this."
Marcus Weathers gets the basket plus the foul
MOM WASN'T HAPPY when her boys broke the news that they were going to transfer to different schools. She "did not like it at all," they recalled. But what could she do? They were old enough to make their own decisions, so she didn't fight it. She understood that Marcus wanted to gain some independence.
But she said she was nervous. Who would watch their backs if they didn't have each other?
"I just felt like they should always be together because two is always better than one and just for support and just to make sure each other is OK," Joann explained. Hearing their plans to separate, "I was a little bit worried at first, but they reassured me that everything would be OK."
Marcus wound up going five hours east to Duquesne. Michael transferred to Oklahoma State, where Cooper had been hired as an assistant. Both had to sit out their first year on campus, per NCAA rules.
It was weird, they said, not waking up each morning and greeting one another. They spoke on the phone constantly, but it wasn't the same.
"It was tough," Michael said.
"Very tough," Marcus added.
Marcus struggled to fit into his new environment, feeling for the first time as if he was surrounded by people who took the game for granted. The lack of structure took some getting used to. He couldn't understand why his teammates complained so much.
"I was developing anxiety and all this stuff just being around a lot of toxic guys," he said.
But he learned something about himself in the process.
"It showed me how to be cutthroat," he said. "If you want it, you gotta go get it."
Michael had more structure at Oklahoma State and benefitted from having Cooper on staff. But without Marcus there to balance him out, he lost his way.
On Sept. 9, 2018, Michael was arrested after he reportedly stole a woman's wallet at a local bar. He was suspended for two months and later pled guilty to knowingly concealing stolen property, a misdemeanor, while a felony charge of grand larceny was dismissed.
Four months later, Michael and two other players were kicked off the team after they were accused of vandalism when they allegedly shot and damaged several vehicles with air rifles. Michael's mother and stepfather, Henry Loring, had to drive 4.5 hours to Stillwater, pack his bags and bring him home. All of which begged the question: Would it have come to this if Marcus was around?
Marcus said there's no way his brother would have gotten in that kind of trouble if he was there, and their mom agreed.
"He always keeps me in control when I get a little wild," Michael said. He then thought back to his run-in with the law. "That was the most childish thing ever. I regret it."
"He needed that, though," Marcus added.
Marcus cried when he first heard what happened. He immediately called Michael, who barely said a word. Marcus tried to encourage him and told him to get back in the gym and steer clear of any more trouble.
There were a lot of conversations like that in the weeks and months that followed.
"We had to keep it real so many times," Marcus said. "He kind of lost himself at one point. It got rough for him."
Michael wound up flipping burgers at Wendy's and packing trucks at UPS as he waited for his next opportunity.
Never again, he told himself.
"I hated going through it, but it was really a blessing," he said. "It taught me a lot of valuable lessons."
Marcus said he was tempted to return home and be with his brother, but he had a job to do. He felt that given everything, he couldn't let his family down.
"I was super determined," he said.
Playing with a sense of purpose and freed from his brother's shadow, Marcus took his game to another level. As a redshirt sophomore, he wound up starting 30 of 32 games and averaged 10.0 points and 6.4 rebounds.
The disrespect he felt as Michael's supposed sidekick was gone. In each of the next two seasons, Marcus would earn All-Atlantic 10 honors.
"It was crazy because I had to find myself. Like, who am I?" he said. "I'm a hard worker."
Some people may have been surprised by Marcus' emergence. Michael was not, recalling how Marcus would routinely beat him in games of 1-on-1 when they were younger.
"I knew he had it in him," Michael said. "What he did that year was show that he can handle himself and be a man. With all the stuff I had going on, he was helping me with that. And then he was playing an entire college basketball season. I was very proud."
MARCUS AND MICHAEL are having the time of their lives in Dallas. When they're not going back and forth over games of NBA2K, they're binge-watching episodes of "Breaking Bad" or "The Office." Jankovich, who has never coached twins before, can't get over the intensity of their bond, interlocking his fingers as a way of showing just how close they are.
Marcus is happy he doesn't have to deal with the snow and freezing rain of Pittsburgh anymore. Michael had to drive only 3.5 hours up the road from Texas Southern to unpack his bags at his fourth college stop.
Michael kept his nose clean after leaving Oklahoma State, sat out a year and immediately became a starter for the Tigers, leading the team in scoring (16.5 PPG) and earning SWAC Newcomer of the Year honors last season. Texas Southern won its conference tournament and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament where Michael had a team-high 24 points in a loss to Michigan.
During those years apart, the twins said they never talked about playing together again. They couldn't imagine it. But when the NCAA announced it would be awarding everyone an extra year of eligibility, Marcus said he got to thinking. Duquesne's season ended during the conference tournament, so he had time to consider how cool it would be to reunite with his brother.
After Michael's season was over, Marcus asked what he thought.
"One final year together?" Michael said. "Let's do it and end it on a good note."
Michael tried to play it cool about what schools they had in mind, but Marcus was having none of it.
"No, no, no," Marcus said.
SMU had hired Cooper as an assistant in 2020, so the decision was easy.
"We ain't gonna lie," Marcus said. "We love Coach Coop."
Cooper said that initially he wasn't sure it would work out since they didn't have many roster spots available. But after the season ended, half a dozen players transferred and suddenly it became the ideal situation to bring in two established veterans.
Jankovich had initially recruited Michael out of high school, believing he had "elite acceleration," but he didn't have a need for Marcus at the time and bowed out since they were a package deal.
"I didn't realize he would be that good," Jankovich said of Marcus. "He went a long way and became a guy that anybody that plays against him doesn't like playing against him. He developed. He was always athletic and tough and all that, but his skill level really increased, it made him so versatile to go with the kind of nasty that he has."
SMU's Kendric Davis finds Michael Weathers with the beautiful pass for the layup.
On a transfer-heavy team, Jankovich is thankful to have two players with so much experience and skill. Even though they're often "locked at the hip," Jankovich said that Michael and Marcus are not a separate entity from the rest of the team and have done a lot to help the culture.
After losing three of their first six games, SMU got on a roll. On Feb. 9, the Mustangs improved to 17-5 when they upset No. 6 Houston at home. The Weathers twins combined for 37 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and two steals. The team encountered a setback in a loss at Temple on Wednesday, but Michael and Marcus will be at the forefront of the effort to boost their NCAA tournament profile against fellow bubble team Memphis on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN app).
"We were fortunate," Jankovich said, crediting Cooper for recruiting Michael and Marcus. "I think the stars were all aligned for us, and for them, too."
The Weathers brothers certainly can't explain their luck in reuniting. Michael just shook his head and said once again, "It's been crazy." While they don't want to get caught looking ahead, they plan to continue chasing the dream of playing basketball professionally once the season is over. Whatever they have to do to make that happen, Michael said, "That's what we're gonna do."
"In college basketball, you fall in love with the journey more than you do playing the games," Marcus said. "It's a grind like you got to wake up, you got to go to practice every day, you got to hit the nail on the head every day.
"But you get to do it with your family? That's just crazy."