March 19, 2008
Washington State Athletic Media Relations
By Erica Beck
From the rafters of Friel Court, the members of the Washington State men's basketball team look a lot like midgets with waving appendages, blurry features and some hair. From courtside, it is easy to see that the Cougars are indeed life-sized, some of them more than life-sized, people. But what most don't see is that they aren't a product of Spalding and Wilson; they have families.
The eight who play the majority of the minutes for the Cougars' all have brothers. Older brothers. Older brothers ranging from their mid-20s to about 30 years old. Is it uncanny that the top eight players for a basketball team all have older brothers around the same age? Probably not since there are over six and a half billion people populating this world. But considering Pullman, Wash., is in a remote location, it's pretty special.
Also pretty special is the relationship between most of these sets of brothers.
Robbie Cowgill and his 24-year-old brother Graeme talk all the time. Graeme is in the Air Force and stationed in Florida but prior to that, he and Robbie shot hoops in the driveway, wrestled each other, talked about life and made memories.
"My brother is one of the most fun people I have ever met. Ask anyone who has met him and they'll tell you the same thing," said Robbie. "We've taken a couple trips overseas and flying and staying in a hotel with just us two and goofing around; those are probably the times we've had the most fun."
Graeme played a year of high school basketball and then started swimming. Even though he's picked up basketball again and plays for his Air Force team, Robbie has the goods when it comes to a game of one-on-one.
For Nikola Koprivica, a game of one-on-one with his brother Jovan has a different ending. Jovan turns 26 this summer and has played professional basketball almost nine years. A lot of that time was spent with the top Serbian team, but Jovan has also spent some time in Greece and may be coming to the United States this summer.
Even though Jovan is six years older and taught Nikola how to hoop, the two are close and have had several instances of calling or texting each other at the same time.
"We're very connected. We're separated by thousands of miles, but we think of each other at the same moment; it's incredible," said Nikola. "When we were growing up, I was always the little brother, but he was always looking out for me and protecting me. He had a big influence on me; I wanted to be like him."
Taylor Rochestie has a similar relationship with his brother Alex who works for a television station and will be 25 this month. Alex played a little basketball in high school but was more apt to show up as an underdog at the rec center and knock down a bunch of treys.
"Over the years in playing one-on-one, I think the record is about 300-1 in favor of my brother," said Taylor. "As soon as I beat him the first time, he stopped playing me. He was always bigger, but now he's gotten smart and doesn't challenge me anymore."
That's probably a wise choice on Alex's part. He prefers to back his brother anyway and is one of Taylor's biggest fans.
"I'm a huge fan of Taylor and a big believer in him and this team; I wouldn't want my brother to be on any other team," said Alex. "We've always been close. We've always played sports together, and we've always hung out."
Maybe it was all those years Alex let his little bro tag along. Because Taylor looked up to his older brother, when Alex began playing basketball, Taylor wanted to pick it up too. A dozen years later, Taylor is mostly just picking up his dribble as he directs the Cougars. Alex tries to be in the stands for as many of those moments as he can.
As Taylor said, "I guess we're the definition of `close as kin'. He's basically been the closest person to me and someone I've looked up to my whole life."
The remaining three starters - Derrick Low, Aron Baynes and Kyle Weaver - as well as Caleb Forrest and Daven Harmeling all have an older brother as well. Most of them got started doing what thousands of fans love watching them do today because of their older siblings.
While basketball is the sport that pulled all these families together, the Bennett family is the core of what keeps them together.
"It speaks of what type of coach Tony is and Dick Bennett was, the kind of family environment that has been created there," said Alex, who knows some of the team's older brothers. "Daven's brother drove me to the airport once, and it is cool having that kind of family through Taylor."