The Battle family is competitive by nature. Winning earns you bragging rights at family functions while losing means a waiting game for the next opportunity to play.

When Khalif Battle was 5 years old, his grandmother, Catherine Battle, used to lock him, his brother, Tyus, and cousin, Antoine, in the gym for hours to play basketball during the summer. This went on for years.

Catherine Battle worked weekends as a janitor at Iselin Middle School in Woodbridge, N.J., with unique access to the gym. Khalif, Tyus, and Antoine would play full-court one-on-one, 21, or any game they could think of.

“That’s really why I became competitive,” Khalif said. “Whoever won the most games that day was going to be able to talk the most crap to each other the rest of the day. That’s really where my love for the game came from.”

Khalif spent much of his life proving himself on the basis of his own merit. He’s now a 6-foot-5 guard entering his second season as the focal point of a promising young Temple basketball team.

Tyus, older by two and a half years, was named New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year his senior year of high school at St. Joseph’s Metuchen. He went on to have a successful three-year career at Syracuse and is playing professionally in Italy.

The two shared the floor at St. Joe’s in 2016 under coach Dave Turco, who said he could tell 15-year-old Khalif played as if he was proving he belonged.

“They were definitely getting into some battles, like brothers will,” said Turco, who now coaches the Kean University men’s team. “Nothing bad. Just sort of that little brother to big brother thing, wanting to prove that he was as good. I thought that Tyus did a great job handling that situation, helping Khalif get better.”

Off the court, the two found solace in hyper-competitive video games growing up, spending countless hours playing NBA 2K on a GameCube. No matter how many times Tyus won, he couldn’t break Khalif’s spirit. It got to the point where that old console would heat up the whole room after they played for so long.

On the court, Tyus said Khalif really began to catch up toward the end of his senior season at Trenton Catholic and into his freshman year at Butler.

“I had to start taking him a little more seriously,” Tyus said. “He started becoming more confident. He also got a lot better and a lot stronger. Our games are always competitive with everything we do – video games, it could be checkers, basketball – whatever it is.”

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The 2019 4-star recruit committed to play at Butler, passing up offers from his brother’s alma mater along with local programs like Rutgers and St. Joe’s. After one season with the Bulldogs, he decided to transfer to North Broad Street to play for then-second-year coach Aaron McKie, 90 minutes from his home in Hillside, N.J.

“I’d be lying if I said it was easy,” Khalif said. “I had to leave [Butler] because it was just a lot of pressure and I wasn’t dealing with it the best way. I put all these expectations on myself. … I missed home.

“Coming [to Temple], I wanted to show everybody that I’m still Khalif Battle.”

Khalif remembers not always being the hardest worker growing up and others frequently not wanting to work with him.

Leading into his fifth-grade season he flipped a switch, starting to take basketball earnestly. Once he finished his homework he would be out until midnight, much to the dismay of his parents, either shooting on a little Nerf hoop in the basement or sneaking out to a nearby park to shoot by himself.

On his lower right abdomen, Khalif has a tattoo of a boy carrying an umbrella under rainfall. He said it signifies feeling left out of things as a kid while his experiences have prepared him to weather any storm. Beside the image reads the word “LOSER” with a red ‘V’ covering the ‘S’ in reference to Stephen King’s IT.

He has always carried the moniker of being Tyus’ younger brother. But Khalif said he has no problem with that label as long as people respect him and respect his game.

If Khalif could go back in time to tell himself about how far he’s come, how would his younger self respond?

“This is what I always dreamed about. Being one of the guys, being as successful as I can,” Battle said. “This is just a baseline for where I’m at. I think the sky’s the limit for myself. I want to make it to the NBA, so when I go back to the family table nobody can say nothing to me.”