Life's a Holiday for Brothers

Justin Holiday (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

SEATTLE - Toya Holiday already had one baby on her hands. She was excited for one; she wasn't ready for the reality of two. When she found out she was pregnant the second time, she denied it. She cried. She didn't tell anyone for months. She would tell husband Shawn not to say a word.

"Honey, deal with reality," her mother would tell her. "You're pregnant."

"I was so embarrassed," the mother of Justin and Jrue Holiday said. "Those were some crazy times. I had a little baby, and here I was pregnant. But it turned out well because they became best friends."

The Washington Huskies and UCLA Bruins square off at Bank of America Arena, and the prize is sole possession of first place atop the Pac-10 conference. And if Toya thought the early years were crazy, expect her to be going berserk for 40 minutes Saturday afternoon as siblings-turned-rvials for a day get after it at Hec Ed.

Justin, a sophomore forward for Washington, and Jrue, a freshman guard for the Bruins, are closer than the 14 months that separate them in age. The Holiday brothers are so close that one wears the number 21 and the other 22. They had to be close; they shared a room, and at one point even a bunk bed. The elder Holiday, at 6-foot-6, got the bottom bunk. "Sometimes we switched," Justin said.

But you wouldn't know the Holidays were cut from the same cloth upon initial inspection. Justin is the extrovert, the Energizer Bunny; the animated defender his team calls 'The Fireman', because of his ability to help his teammates. Jrue is a walking portrait of cool. He has always been the calming presence, the unflappable one on the court - the one everybody relied on to provide the clutch play.

In some ways, the brothers' personalities mirror the personalities of their head coaches. "Ben Howland is a little more quiet, where Romar's not," said Toya. "Romar will talk to anyone, and Howland is a little more reserved. That's funny - that's how my sons are. It really makes a fit. They are connected that way."

Toya and Shawn Holiday will be in the stands Saturday, cheering on both sons as if it was Justin and Jrue's first game at Campbell Hall in southern California. And if they end up guarding one another? Even better. "That's great!" she said, clearly animated by the thought. "You still root for them. It's like, 'Stop him...oh great shot!'"

"I guess I'm happy to be playing in a game with him somehow," added Justin. "It's been a while. I'm just happy to be able to see him."

Basketball is in the Holiday's genes. Toya played basketball at Arizona State and then at USIU in La Jolla for her final two years. Shawn played at ASU and then at Cal State-Los Angeles. People ask Toya all the time if the boys play more like her or Shawn, and she doesn't know.

"All I know is that we're definitely blessed," she said. "They are playing in the Pac-10 and are playing for the league leaders. I'm so excited for Saturday. I'm going to win!"

And it truly is a win-win for the Holidays. For a while, there was a chance Justin and Jrue might play together in college. Justin made up his mind after his junior year he wanted to go to Washington. Jrue wanted to stay home. Right now he basically lives at the family home, a 15-minute drive from the Westwood campus.

"If we had been closer to home, we would have had a better chance," Romar said Friday.

"It would have been nice if they played together, but it's also nice they are split, because they'll both grow up," added Toya. "It's time for them to be men."

Jrue was considered the crown jewel of UCLA's 2008 recruiting class, the number-one shooting guard prospect by Scout.com. Justin never quite earned the accolades showered upon his younger brother, but that didn't stop Washington from recruiting him hard. He picked the Huskies over interest from Texas Tech, SMU and Arizona State.

Romar's interest was genuine. He wasn't getting to Justin to lure Jrue. "We said from the get-go that if that's the case, just forget it," Toya said. "The coaches were really up-and-up with us. They didn't talk to us about Jrue when Justin was being recruited. It was really separate, which was nice."

In fact, it's kind of amazing how well the process has worked out for both sons. "I didn't care where they went as long as they were going under a man that sort of had the same views as my husband and I," Toya said. "I'm so glad my sons are in both of these programs. They have great kids on their teams."

Toya will be there, wearing a special shirt that has UW vs. UCLA on it, with the Holiday brothers featured prominently. "I'm going to remember every play, so when we are eating Christmas dinner I'm going to be able to say, 'Remember that play when he took you? That was great,'" she said.

And whoever has bragging rights, Justin and Jrue will still stay in the same room when both are around. "I don't know if they sleep," Toya said, noting they probably stay up all night playing Rock Band.

Saturday's game will come and go - and Jrue will get to host Justin when the Huskies travel to UCLA February 19th - but it won't break the bonds of brotherhood. Especially with the Holidays.

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