The Twin Towers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 16, 2003

Size does matter. Just ask the Twin Towers.

The "towers" are first-cousins Shawn Hacker and Chris Laber. The Ironton St. Joseph Flyers duo has been double trouble in a big way for opposing defenses.

Laber, a senior, goes 6-foot-3, 225 pounds while Hacker, a junior, is 6-7, 235. Hacker has a 23.6 scoring average and an amazing 17 rebounds per contest. Laber averages 14.2 points and 10 rebounds.

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The pair doesn't think being related has helped their interaction on the basketball court. Instead, they've developed a sort of mental telepathy through experience.

"Usually, at the beginning of game, we have man on man. I tell Chris to make sure you're right there. He let's me know where he is. He gets my attention," Hacker said.

"I'm just being patient and giving the ball to the other man and they make the shot. It's a team game and you win as a team and a lose as a team. If they bring a couple men to me, that leaves someone open."

Laber said that when he gets the ball, he's looking for his teammate and he knows where to find him.

"Really, it kind of just happened this season. It just seems like we know where each other are without looking. When I'm at the foul line I

know he's got his man off of him I can get the ball up to him," Laber said.

Flyers coach Adam Simpson used things such as ESP to explain the chemistry between the two. He said there is a simple reason: hard work.

"They work so well together, but they worked so hard this summer, and that's the reason they're doing so well this year. It's their work ethic," Simpson said.

"They're seeing the benefits of that work and they're so unselfish with each other. They just want to win. But all these kids are like brothers. No one cares who does the scoring. There's no jealousy."

Hacker and Laber spent the summer not only playing basketball, but running and lifting weights. Hacker said the extra work helped him as much mentally as it did physically.

"The biggest difference over last year is my confidence," Hacker said. "I worked over the summer. I'm not the quickest thing in world, but I'm quicker and I'm stronger than I used to be. I know if I go in there and play my game I can help the team."

Playing side-by-side meant an adjustment for Laber, and he worked on another aspect of his game. After playing under the basket most of his career, Laber realized he needed to expand his shooting range.

"I knew Shawn was going to be healthy starting out, so I had to work more on my shot. Shawn was going to be underneath and he'd get more attention and that would leave me open," Laber said. "It's mostly inside the 3-point line. I like getting the ball with my back to the player and then making my move to the basket."

Although Hacker camps near the basket, he has a very good outside shot and can even hit 3-pointers if called upon to do so. Hacker would like to move out away from the basket occasionally, but he knows that's not in the team's offensive scheme.

"I can shoot outside as well as the guards, but (coach Simpson) really doesn't want me to come down the floor and start putting up a bunch of outside shots," Hacker said.

Because of Laber's ability to score and Hacker's willingness to give up the ball, opposing teams have started using zone defenses in an attempt to shut down both players. Laber said the Flyers have adjusted to the new gimmick defenses.

"Now when Shawn gets the ball, the perimeter players will drop down on me. And we're seeing a lot of zone. They stick guys in the middle. We've figured out ways to beat it. You've got to be patient. That's what coach (Simpson) has stressed on offense. Just let things develop," Laber said.

The players are developing their game in practice as well. Both said they benefit from going against each other in practice as drills get rather physical.

"Chris is stronger this year. He may not be 6-7 like I am, but he's strong and he will be a force. You have to use your strength against him. He's capable of scoring like I am," Hacker said.

Laber said playing against Hacker in practice has its benefits, too.

"In a game, we've never faced anyone as big as Shawn, so it makes it a lot easier," Laber said.

Besides their own scoring and rebounding, Hacker and Laber always turn their thoughts toward how they can better help the team.

"We're starting to play better. We're not turning the ball over as much and we're playing better as a team. We just need to play hard and work together," Hacker said.

Laber said he has added leadership to his game this season.

"I wanted to be more of a player/coach on the floor. If someone makes a mistake, I tell them to get over and don't do it again. I wanted to be more of a voice leader this year," Laber said.

Chris Laber and Shawn Hacker have been leaders for the Flyers this season. Being the Twin Towers, it's hard not looking up to them.