Every time Emani Mayo exits a game, her fraternal twin sister, Nicolette, is the first one to high-five her.

The two are 5-foot-8 sophomore guards for the Temple women’s basketball team. Nicolette isn’t a starter, but it doesn’t matter. The two are together on the team, and that’s all that matters to them.

"We always wanted to go to college together. It just worked out,” Emani said.

It’s rare for twins to play on the same college basketball team. There are three other sets who play on the same team at the women’s Division I level this season. Tennessee-Martin features the Grant sisters, Kyannah and Kyarrah, who also are fraternal twins. Stanford has identical twins, Lexie and Lacie Hull, and Gonzaga has identical twins Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth.

The Mayo sisters got their start in basketball, along with cheerleading, softball, soccer, and track, when they were 5 and growing up in Hephzibah, Ga. They had always done things together, including attending the same school. So it was challenging for them both when Nicolette was accepted into a magnet school via lottery in fourth grade.

Nicolette said she was thrilled to attend the prestigious school until she realized Emani would not be there. The separation bothered Nicolette so much that her grades suffered, and she eventually transferred to the public school Emani was attending.

“I had more anxiety when I was there," Nicolette said of the magnet school. "Being away, it was just crazy. I didn’t think it would feel like this."

Nicolette Mayo (right) and sister Emani Mayo practice one-on-one.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Nicolette Mayo (right) and sister Emani Mayo practice one-on-one.

The same situation almost happened again. When Emani made the decision to attend Temple two years ago after a stellar high school career at Hephzibah High School, the Owls didn’t offer Nicolette a similar basketball scholarship.

“Initially we wanted to stay together, but it came with circumstances," Nicolette said. “So if I come, I know this is going to be different. Bottom line is I just had to make a decision on if I was going to come or not come."

One of those circumstances was that Nicolette would have to walk on to the team to earn a spot, while her sister would be on scholarship. And if she made the team, Nicolette probably wouldn’t get the same amount of playing time as Emani. She was OK with that.

Nicolette, who averaged 17.9 points per game as a senior and helped her high school team into the state playoffs, received several Division 1 offers to play basketball and likely could have been a star somewhere else. She chose instead to attend Temple with Emani.

Her reward came quickly. Thanks to her focus on both her studies and basketball, Temple coach Tonya Cardoza last spring offer Nicolette an athletic scholarship.

Sisters Nicolette Mayo (left) and Emani Mayo clown around at practice.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Sisters Nicolette Mayo (left) and Emani Mayo clown around at practice.

Nicolette said she still doesn’t play as much as she would like -- she has played in two games this season scoring a basket against ECU -- but her decision to attend Temple and be with her sister has been worth it.

Emani, who averaged 20 points per game as a high school senior and was a first-team all-state selection, started 27 of 31 games last season and averaged 9.7 points per game. She also made the American Athletic Conference all-freshman team. This season, she is a team captain and is averaging 5.2 points per game, and her season high of 18 points came Dec. 30 against La Salle.

Despite their differences -- Emani is right-handed, and Nicolette is left-handed. Nicolette is outspoken, and Emani is reserved -- the women have both made the dean’s list every semester at Temple.

And they continue to play basketball together.

“We wanted to stay together and not break up what we had," Nicolette said. “We’ve been together our whole life.”