They can finish each other’s sentences; they are that united. And they flash the same smile and have a zest for all things basketball.
Mason and McKenzie Forbes of Folsom High School are 16 months apart – Mason the elder sibling – though they call themselves twins. And they play the role perfectly.
The sophomores start for their respective teams, both ranked in The Bee’s top 20. Talented and versatile athletes, they’re also strong students, Mason pulling a 4.0 GPA and McKenzie not far behind. And where one goes, the other is generally alongside.
“The best of friends, and they’d rather be with each other than anyone else,” said the Forbes’ mother, Sasha. “They don’t even play video games at home. Mason and Kenzie just hang out, study, or go to the gym for four hours. And they don’t eat candy, soda or anything like that. That’s not us parents stressing that. It’s Mason and Kenzie on their own, doing their thing.”
Mason is a wiry 6-foot-7 forward-center whose job is to protect the rim, snare rebounds and hit open jumpers on a boys team bolstered by experienced senior guards. McKenzie is a 6-foot guard who can dominate as a a scorer, facilitator and defender for the girls team.
Game nights are about the only time the Forbes are not joking around. Otherwise, it’s two-person comedy bit.
“We’re loving life,” McKenzie said, grinning.
The siblings enjoy taking the same classes, including French this term. But McKenzie learned long ago to not sit behind her brother. Mason has a mushroom-size Afro. It bounces as he bounds down the floor. “Fear the ’Fro” is a popular theme at Folsom games, with signs bearing that phrase. McKenzie fears getting cast in that hair eclipse.
“I can’t sit behind him,” McKenzie said. “I’d get lost.”
What isn’t lost is the admiration the two have for each other, not that it was always this way.
“We’re really close, and people even at school say, ‘You two look like you’re connected at the hip,’ ” Mason said, adding with a grin, “ ‘Well, yeah!’ But we used to really go at it.”
Front-yard basketball tussles in their youth included skinned knees and bruised pride. Mason was the enforcer, and proud of it.
“Mason had no mercy on Kenzie,” Sasha said. “He’d knock her down, step over her, look at her, finish the play. She’d get back up and drive to the basket, crying. Or spin moves to get around her brother, tears coming down her face, but she never quit.”
Recalled McKenzie: “I got better. Mason really shaped my game, made me tougher. It made it an easy transition going from playing against him to playing against girls.”
The siblings used to play on the same teams. On a fourth-grade tackle-football team, McKenzie played quarterback and Mason caught her passes. They also played on the same boys youth basketball teams, McKenzie in her still familiar ponytail and Mason bearing the same look. His hair was so tall even then that a hair tie helped bind it.
Then something happened.
“A coach came up and tried to recruit me and my sister to a girls team, and that was the end of the ponytail for me,” Mason said, laughing at the story with his sister.
Mason’s hair has become “my trademark,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always had, and I love it.”
More than anything, Mason and McKenzie love family. They have soaked up the wisdom of their older brothers: Marcus, who attends Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Max, a senior and Mason’s Folsom teammate. Basketball has helped bond the Forbes family.
Sasha’s high school basketball experience was in Wyoming, and it was brief and brittle.
“I got an F in P.E. because I broke a fingernail, cried and wouldn’t play,” Sasha said, laughing.
The Forbes’ father, Sterling, played at Texas State and toured with the Globetrotters for 10 years, sharing stories with his kids of how fans in India would chase after the team bus for one last bit of entertainment. Sterling Forbes is as tall as his 6-7 son, but he looks shorter since Mason sports hair his pop no longer has.
An assistant coach for Folsom’s girls team, Sterling sized up the family-hoops experience in general: “Time of our lives.”
Mason is building a recruiting profile. He is still growing into his body and game. He has recruiting interest from Washington State, Riverside, San Jose State and others.
This is where McKenzie has her brother beat. She has a box full of recruiting mail, sorted by conference, with scholarship offers from Arizona, Clemson, Georgia, Texas Tech, UCLA, USC, Washington and others.
“She’s got a head start on me there,” Mason said, his sister nodding in agreement.
With that, the sibling pals walked away, side by side, to do a photo shoot, equals in every way.