For all the praise and admiration brothers Isaiah and Evan Mobley of Temecula Rancho Christian receive for their performances in basketball, they pale in comparison to the respect they’ve earned off the court.
The 6-foot-10 Isaiah, a senior headed to USC, has a 4.2 grade-point average and received an award for his studies in American Sign Language. The 7-foot Evan, a junior, has a 4.0 GPA and received an award for his studies in Spanish.
Their mother, Nicol, is a middle school math-science teacher in the process of earning a second master’s degree; their father, Eric, is an assistant basketball coach at USC. They have taught their sons to be good people first, show respect to others and be team players.
They’re usually the two tallest players on the court and are also among the most unselfish. Whether passing the ball to each other or setting screens to free up a teammate, they judge success not by how many points they score but whether the team has won or lost.
So far, so good. Rancho Christian is 20-4 and should be one of the top seeds when the Southern Section Open Division playoff pairings are announced on Super Bowl Sunday.
The Eagles are set to play No. 1 Chatsworth Sierra Canyon in a regular-season finale at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Pasadena City College.
Isaiah, who was selected for the McDonald’s All-American game last week, is averaging 22 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Evan is averaging 20 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.
The challenge in facing Rancho Christian is dealing with the two giants in the fourth quarter of close games when every possession matters. Evan, considered among the top players for his age group, likes to assert himself scoring, rebounding and blocking shots. He offers moments that cause fans to enter ooh and aah mode and has led Isaiah to call him “a walking miracle.”
“He’s a freak athlete,” Isaiah said of his brother.
The most intriguing part of their mental makeup is unselfishness. They play within the team concept. Given an opening, they’re happy to step forward and contribute a dunk, a 15-foot jump shot or an offensive rebound basket. But neither has to have the ball to be effective. It’s something their father instilled in them as youngsters growing up and has continued under coach Ray Barefield at Rancho Christian.
“My dad always made us play the right way,” Isaiah said. “He was our AAU coach when we were younger. He didn’t make the team specifically for us so we could score all the points. He enforced team balance and coach Ray does as well.”
Said Evan: “I just like to trust my teammates. In order for me to stay focused, I like to play defense and get a lot of blocks and rebounds. That gets me into the flow of the game and I can take over.”
Then there’s the commitment to education. It comes from their mom.
“They’re student-athletes,” Nicol said. “They’re students first and athletes second.”
Evan is the one many experts are projecting as a future NBA first-round draft pick.
Big bro agrees.