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Jan. 14, 2013

This season, you will see the name Barnette emblazoned on the back of two different Virginia uniforms. The siblings bear a striking resemblance to one another on and off the court. Both like to shoot the long ball, with No. 4 making six of nine field goals this season from beyond the arc. Both are in their first seasons with Virginia, trying to work through that learning curve, but the similarities on the court end there. No. 4 is a combo guard who has been spending time at point guard, while No. 3 is a post player who can spread the defense with that three-point range. The biggest difference between the two is that No. 3 Sarah Beth Barnette plays for the women’s team while No. 4 Taylor Barnette suits up for the men.

Both Sarah Beth and Taylor Barnette had a round-about journey to becoming one of just five brother-sister tandems this year playing Division I basketball at the same school. Sarah Beth originally enrolled at Kentucky, the school where her older brother Ryan was enrolled as an architecture major, playing her freshman season with the Wildcats.

“When she chose Kentucky, I thought all hopes were gone of playing with her at the same school,” Taylor said.

After a year at UK, the alma mater of both her mother and father, Michelle and Ross, Sarah Beth decided to transfer and started looking at a variety of schools. She found Virginia in the most unlikely of places: her own kitchen. Virginia men’s basketball head coach Tony Bennett had sent a packet of recruiting material to Taylor.

“I just happened to see a UVa thing laying on the counter,” Sarah Beth said. “It really caught my eye, so I got on the computer and looked it up. I read about Coach Boyle and it looked like somewhere I would want to go.”

Because of the transfer, Sarah Beth had to sit out her first year at Virginia. In May of last year, Taylor, who had originally signed to play basketball elsewhere, was freed from his original commitment and made the decision that he would be coming to Virginia, putting them both on the court for the first time this season.

“She had a big impact in my decision,” Taylor said. “I liked everything about UVa men’s basketball. Having family where you go to college just makes it better.”

“We grew up in a close family,” Sarah Beth said. “I started at UK with my older brother. Now Taylor and I are both here and playing. It is a really rare thing and a rare opportunity. It’s always a lot of fun. He is also my favorite shooting partner, so we can hit the gym together now, which is a good thing. It’s great having him here.”

The two have been playing basketball together since they were young, with driveway wars breaking out almost daily.

“Our parents always knew who won the game because the loser always slammed the door,” Taylor said.

For most of their lives, it was Taylor who was the door-slammer.

“We used to play one-on-one, and I was taller,” Sarah Beth said. “He hadn’t hit his growth spurt yet, so I was able to back him down and score on him that way.”

Eventually, the 6-3 Taylor caught up to his 6-2 older sister.

“I don’t remember the exact day, but there was a lot of celebrating,” Taylor said of the first time he managed to beat his older sis.

With the men playing primarily on Saturdays and the women on Sundays, the two Barnettes often get to watch and support one another. They don’t trade notes as much as they just talk and catch up.

“More than anything, we can relate to what each other is going through,” Sarah Beth said. “We are glad to be together.”

The closeness of the two siblings becomes even more apparent in their descriptions of one another.

“Taylor has never had a bad day,” Sarah Beth said when describing her brother. “I can’t remember one time Taylor has had a bad day. He will never say anything derogatory about anyone else, even if he is upset about something. He’ll never say anything even if he is upset because he has such a great attitude. He’s the most positive person I’ve ever been around. And I’ve had to grow up with him. That is the number one thing I would say about him.”

Taylor returns the compliments in his description of his sis.

“She is one of the sweetest, nicest girls I have ever been around,” Taylor said. “I’ve had so many people come up to me at UVa and say to me `your sister is the nicest person I have ever met in my entire life.’ She really is. She is sweet and she is nice. I love her very much.”

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