If you get a chance to watch Yiel and John Wuol play a game of pickup basketball, there will be lots of smiles and trash talking.
John will relish blocking his taller older brother’s shots and letting him know about it. Yiel will crack up after crossing over his younger, quicker brother and causing him to fall down.
Once they are on the court for the Kennewick High School basketball team, though, it is all business.
The Wuol brothers are two-year starters for the Lions (14-9) and lead them into a regional playoff game against Shadle Park (9-13) at 8 p.m. today at Central Valley High in Spokane.
“They put in a lot of time. They live and breathe basketball, so they are a joy to coach,” Kennewick coach Bradyn Leyde said. “They get along really well. There is no sibling rivalry and they are really supportive of each other.”
Yiel, prounced yeel, which means blue in Sudanese, where his parents are from, is a 6-foot-3 senior forward.
“I try to play aggressive, which is why I’m always in foul trouble,” he said of his style. “I like playing defense. Defense gets me offense. Once I’m doing good on defense, it pumps me up and gets me going on offense.”
John is a 6-foot-1 junior guard.
“My quickness (is what makes me good),” John said. “I think being faster than most people is the best for me.”
Both are active defensively and can score if called upon. The Lions’ offense revolves around Mitchel Mueller, but when defenses collapse on him, others have to step up and hit shots. The Wuol brothers have done that throughout the season.
“Yiel is a guy that maximizes what he has, he gets a lot out of his body,” Leyde said. “He is very selfless. He doesn’t worry bout how much he is scoring, and he knows one of his big jobs is to help pick up the slack on defense for us.
“John probably doesn’t know how good he is sometimes. He has a really quick first step and he is very athletic. When he wants something, he can go out and get it.”
The Wuols moved to Kennewick from Memphis, Tenn., in the mid-1990s. Their parents came to America in 1994 from Sudan, and both sons were born in Memphis. Older brother Kor also played basketball for Kennewick, and helped introduce his younger brothers to the game.
Now they have the chance to lead the Lions to their first state tournament appearance since 1989. And only the third in school history.
“That is what we think about,” Yiel said. “It is an honor. We are making history right now. Since 1989 ... that is a long time and a lot of people are rooting for us right now.
“We’re excited. There is always a little bit of pressure, but we are mostly excited.”
To get to state, though, the Lions have to top a Shadle Park team that beat them 63-60 last week in a Class 3A District 5/8 semifinal in Kennewick.
“Payback, man,” John said of tonight’s game. “They got us the first time here. We just got to get on the boards. And defense, that is is what is going to win us the game.”
And if they do win the game, it will be a huge accomplishment for the Lions program.
“Our school is one of the oldest in the Tri-Cities,” Leyde said. “This means a lot to this program, where it has been. We were looking it up recently and there is just not a lot of winning seasons in Kennewick basketball (history).
“It would be huge for our community and school if we would be able to do that for them.”