To shoot or to shoot?
That was the question facing Brittany McPhee, the reigning Gatorade state player of the year in Washington, two years ago, when she had to choose between her teenage passions.
On the one hand, McPhee was a successful model. First noticed at age 13 by a modeling agency while she was walking through a shopping mall, she quickly learned the camera loved her. By the time she was ready for high school, she had already adorned the pages of Vogue and Teen Vogue and Macy's catalogs.
On the other hand, McPhee -- now a 6-foot junior wing at Mount Rainier (Des Moines, Wash.) -- had an innate ability on the basketball court. Her father, Bryce, played with John Stockton at Gonzaga in the early '80s. Her mother, Alice, played at Eastern Washington before exploring a professional league in Australia. In the next generation, more ballers emerged. First, two older brothers. And then fraternal twins Jordan and Brittany.
As one would imagine, the twins were inseparable growing up, including during what seemed to be some of the most competitive family basketball games in America. Jordan, whom the family affectionately refers to as "the feisty one," always pushed Brittany -- both figuratively and literally -- in the backyard brawls.
As the twins neared grade-school age, Bryce and Alice McPhee decided to home-school them, figuring they could enhance the development of their athletic passions with more flexibility in their daily schedules.
"The biggest thing about home-schooling them was making use of the gym time," Alice McPhee said. "I told the girls, 'You can either spend an hour during the school day in the gym shooting a basketball or you can spend an hour at gym class doing silly stuff.' "
That hour a day certainly kept the doldrums away, as Brittany started to separate herself from her peers on the court and Jordan emerged as an elite runner.
"I think it worked out because they were able to figure out at a young age how to have that drive," Alice McPhee said. "That little extra time they had to put in on their own really separated them."
Another calling beckoned, though, after a scout from a New York-based modeling agency locked in on Brittany as she and Alice were walking through a mall. The family was initially cautious, but Alice had friends in the airline industry who arranged a free flight to New York so they could test out the modeling industry.
"It was really fun because the shoots would take me to places I had never been to and I could see and meet a lot of new people," said McPhee, whose budding work ethic in the gym translated well to the grueling when-will-it-end days of a photo shoot.
From sixth to eighth grade, the home-schooling lifestyle was even more accommodating, as McPhee now had to fit a full-fledged fashion career into her already intensive basketball training. One day, she'd be shooting for the Macy's catalog in New York. The next day, shooting basketballs back in Washington. The next day, shooting for Vogue in the middle of a California desert. The next day, back shooting basketballs in Washington.
As the grind wore on, McPhee noticed that each time she left for a modeling gig, she was happier to return home. And some might say that when high school started, she chose basketball over modeling. But she may have just opted for what basketball represented to her: more time with her sister.
"Being away from home while modeling was really tough because I had a twin sister, and being away from her was really tough," McPhee said. "I liked modeling and really liked the opportunity to see all of these new places, but at times I was just saying to myself, 'I really want to be home.' "
I liked modeling and really liked the opportunity to see all of these new places, but at times I was just saying to myself, 'I really want to be home.'” -- Brittany McPhee
The days were different when Brittany and Jordan McPhee packed their lunches and left the house for Mount Rainier (Des Moines, Wash.) High School two years ago. Their parents thought the start of high school marked a phase in their children's lives when it was essential to be exposed to their peers on a daily basis.
"We had always planned for them to go to high school," Alice McPhee said. "A mom can only do so much. I think it's good for them to have another perspective and also get the high school experience."
It came quicker than a crossover dribble. In the classroom, the girls showed the discipline and drive their mom had taught. On the court, they immediately made Mount Rainier a prime player on the state scene.
Brittany McPhee, listed as a four-star prospect, averaged 22.7 points and 11.0 rebounds last season and is filling up the stat sheet again for the undefeated Rams. Jordan McPhee is listening to numerous Division I track and cross country scholarship offers. The question of whether they'll stick together and attend the same college is at the top of their minds.
"Her work ethic is above any I've seen for a high school girl, and I've been coaching for 30 years," Mount Rainier coach Bob Bolam said of Brittany. "She does a lot of things that normal high school basketball players aren't going to do. She'll go to AAU games that she's not even a part of to look at other players and learn about them and study their games."
Even though she'll still do an occasional Saturday shoot locally, Brittany McPhee is happiest with her sister, the two setting screens for each other or fighting over a rebound. If a magazine ever wants the McPhees for a twins issue, maybe she'll listen. But for now, she'd rather drive the lane than walk the runway.