Twins Nate and Natalie Novosel Share Basketball Bond

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Rochester Democrat and Chronicle - Nate and Natalie Novosel weren't separated at birth, but they were born two minutes apart. And boy, are they alike.

Nate is the second-leading basketball scorer at a prestigious university. His team hopes to play in the NCAA Tournament next month.

Natalie is the second-leading scorer at a prestigious university. Her team is definitely headed to NCAAs.

Nate is at the University of Rochester, while Natalie attends Notre Dame, 513 miles away in South Bend, Ind. They were born in Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 22, 1989.

"I'm older, and I hold that over her," Nate says with a laugh.

They are close in age, and closer in spirit.

"We moved crosstown (in Lexington, Ky.) when the kids were small, and thought they'd finally have a chance to have their own rooms," says their mom, Jaine (it's pronounced Janey). "One day when they were about 4, I was downstairs and didn't hear any noise. So I went up to check. The first thing I saw was Natalie's mattress sticking upright out of Nate's door. They had moved all of her furniture into his room."

They're no longer roommates, but they do share a bond so deep that they don't need modern technology to prove it.

"We don't text or email every day, because we're so busy," Nate says. "But when we do, it's so natural, and we can talk for hours."

Nate is a 6-foot-5 senior forward for UR (15-7, including 11-0 at home). He averages 12 points and 4.3 rebounds and recently was named to the Capital One Academic All-District team. He carries a 3.75 grade-point average with a double major of economics and political science, and is a teaching assistant in both areas of study.

He spent last summer as an intern for Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) on Capitol Hill.

He's also 14th in career scoring at UR with 1,149 points.

Natalie is a 5-foot-11 senior guard for Notre Dame, ranked No. 4 nationally at 25-2. She averages 14.6 points and 3.6 rebounds.

Last year, the anthropology major led the Fighting Irish in scoring (15.1 ppg) after averaging just 5 points as a sophomore. She scored in double figures 33 times and hit a scorching 41.3 percent from 3-point range for a Notre Dame team that lost to Texas A&M in the national championship game.

She is one of the elite women's players in the game, and should be one of the top picks in the WNBA draft this April.

The twins are most alike by how driven they are. Nobody outworks Nate or Natalie.

"Our parents (Nick and Jaine) never said, 'You have to do this, this and this,' " Nate says. "But they always made sure we were doing something. To have a goal in mind."

They are most different in temperament.

"Natalie is very carefree, and that's a great attribute for her," Nate says. "I tend to be too serious sometimes. She's a good complement to my seriousness."

Natalie says Nate is simply "a great guy."

"He is the most loyal person you'll ever meet," she says. "He's so trustworthy. You can tell him anything, and he'll always have something to say to help you out."

Their mom agrees with those scouting reports.

"Natalie is a clown in familiar situations, but she has to warm up to things," Jaine says. "Nate considers things more carefully. I'd like to see him laugh more and let his emotions go more easily."

She couldn't be prouder of her twins.

"They have an amazing relationship,'' she says. "They don't need a lot of contact. But they're always there for each other, with a text or phone call."

And their competitive fires still burn, hundreds of miles apart. The other night, Natalie texted Nate after a game.

"I just got 21," she wrote. "What did you get?"

Nate wrote back: "21."

It's hard to believe now, but Natalie was the outsider in this basketball family growing up. Nate and older sister Shannon, a former 6-foot-1 center for Division I Evansville, towered over Natalie and always beat her on a 400 square-foot concrete slab in the backyard.

"I'd lose every game and get so mad," Natalie says.

Nate laughs at the memories.

"We had some great backyard brawls," says Nate, a standout swimmer for eight years before focusing on basketball in high school. "We went to town, just the three of us."

She threw more tantrums than free throws, but in the end, her siblings turned Natalie into a competitive force. And by the time she was a senior at Lexington Catholic, teammates had nicknamed her "Nasty" for her fierce determination.

Their dad played basketball at Kent State, and his three children all inherited the hoops gene, each surpassing 1,000 points in stellar high school careers.

Natalie was recruited by numerous Division I schools and took Nate on her recruiting trip to South Bend. He urged Natalie to sign, telling her, "You can be a star here."

She wasn't, at first, but last season was a breakout year for Natalie and she's only improved this season.

Their dad is an account manager for a small electronics company. Their mom was an architect who became a stay-at-home mom after the twins arrived.

Nick and Jaine try to make as many games in Rochester and South Bend as possible, often combining trips.

Two weeks ago, they drove up to Rochester for a UR game, motored on to Youngstown, Ohio, to spend the night with relatives, then drove to South Bend to see a Notre Dame game the next day.

"I think we've had one open weekend since January," Jaine says.

"It's nuts. But we love it, and we know it's ending soon."

The devoted parents won't be able to witness each child's final home game. "Senior Day" at UR is Saturday, Feb. 25, when the Yellowjackets host Emory. And "Senior Day" at Notre Dame is also Feb. 25, when the Irish host South Florida.

"It's sad," Jaine says. "Nick is going to fly up to see Nathan's last home game, and I'm going to drive to South Bend."

Nate's basketball career is quickly drawing to a close. UR probably has to win its final three games just to have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament. Either way, he's done after this year.

"It's been great, but it's time to think about my career,'' says Nate, who would like to run for public office some day.

He has accepted Teach for America's offer to teach elementary school in Washington, D.C., a two-year commitment that begins this summer.

"I think it makes a lot of sense for me with my interests in public service and politics," he says.

He may not be alone in the nation's capital. Natalie has been projected to be the eighth pick in the WNBA Draft by the Washington Mystics.

"I would love to play there and be with Nathan again," she says.

This time, she promises not to move all of her furniture into his room.

- Jim Mandelaro

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