In stores, restaurants, even at the movies, Heather and Heidi Burge are the cause of double takes. People stare in fascination at the two girls--who are over six feet tall and look exactly alike.
“I guess there’s no escaping it,” said Heidi, “we’re definitely tall.”
“The thing I hate,” said Heather, “is when people come up to me and say, ‘You’re so big.’ I’m not big, I’m tall!”
Their mother, Mary Burge, who is six feet tall, jokingly said: “I think they were born five feet tall. Even when they were really young, they were a lot taller than the other kids.
“I remember when Heather started kindergarten, she told me she wanted to be in a class where the kids were her size. I told her she could not because that was second grade and she was only 5.”
In public it may be a little embarrassing for the pair of shy 16-year olds, but having eyes fixed upon them is no problem when they’re in shorts and high tops, playing basketball for Palos Verdes High, ranked fourth in the South Bay by the coaches’ preseason poll.
Being tall may not be too great at high school dances when they tower over the boys or when trying to find clothes that fit, but it’s an advantage on the basketball court. The Burge twins have discovered height is a gift when muscling under the basket for rebounds and sinking hook shots and layups.
“Heather is our Moses Malone,” said Palos Verdes girl’s basketball Coach Wendell Yoshida. “She’s our force inside and she really knocks them around when she’s in there.
“Heidi is one of our best outside shooters and she’s a great ball handler. The main thing is, they’re both quick and agile even if they are 6 foot 4.”
It’s hard not to notice a girls basketball squad that has twins who are 6 foot 4, 165 pounds, even if it is tucked away in the hills of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Heather and Heidi are inevitably the talk of the campus, coaches around the league and the team.
“A lot of people are jealous of them because they do get a lot of attention,” said Palos Verdes forward Anglesey Thomas. “Even the coach gives them a lot of attention, but they don’t ask for it. They get tired of it, too, you know.”
Heather and Heidi are called, inevitably, the “twin towers,” but they’re hardly typical jock types. In fact, looking at them in civilian clothes, the only thing that associates them with a sport like basketball is their height.
They have curly blond hair, usually worn in pony tails and always have big smiles that expose braces and are constantly giggling. Their dad says he was shocked when they announced interest in the sport.
“When Heather came home to me and said she wanted to play basketball, I could have fallen over with a feather,” said Larry Burge, who is 6 feet 5. “They had always been very feminine and genteel girls. That’s the last thing I thought they’d do.”
The Burge twins had played volleyball as youngsters. By the time they were in ninth grade, they were 6 feet 1, which is when Yoshida spotted them during a physical education class. He suggested that they try out for the freshman team.
“I remember their first game,” Yoshida said, laughing. “They both played offense, but when the other team got the ball and took it to the other side of the court, Heather and Heidi just stood there. They didn’t even know they had to go to the other side and play defense.”
Things have changed dramatically for Heather and Heidi after two seasons of high school and summer basketball in the Amateur Athletic Union, which picks high school all-stars to represent the Southern California Women’s Basketball Club.
“By the time they graduate, they’re going to be blue chippers,” said AAU basketball Coach Steve Kavaloski, who has coached youngsters for 22 years. “They just need to mature and develop for college-level competition. They already have tremendous ability and they’re excellent basketball players.”
The Burges are only juniors, even though they tower over a lot of college players, wear size-12 men’s shoes and appear on the school’s all-time basketball list in several categories.
Heather, who was an all-league middle blocker on the Sea King’s volleyball team this past season and an AAU all-America center, is first on the school’s all-time list for blocked shots (83) and best average per season (13). She averaged 13 points and 13 rebounds last year when Palos Verdes won the Bay League championship.
Heidi’s name appears second on the all-time list for blocked shots (64). She averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds as a sophomore. She was also a second team all-league middle blocker in volleyball.
With statistics like those and, of course, their height, it’s no wonder the Burges have already received hundreds of recruitment letters from major colleges all over the country. North Carolina, USC, Long Beach State, UCLA and Louisiana Tech are just some of the schools that want the twin towers.
“There’s no question that a lot of the best colleges are going to be after them, " said UCLA women’s basketball Coach Billie Moore. “I’ve been watching them for a couple of years, and I’m very impressed with their potential.
“They’re players of size with great agility, mobility and true quickness that can help any team in the back court and inside.”
The sisters have not decided where they will attend college, only that they’re both going to the same place.
“We’ve always done everything together,” said Heather. “Besides, if I didn’t always have another person as tall as me, I don’t know what I’d do.”
Heidi rolled her eyes, gestured with her hands and said: “Yeah, we’ll stick together. Are you kidding? I’m just so glad there’s two of us. I would hate to be alone in this (being so tall).”
So, it’s a package deal, double or nothing.