Meet the sister-brother duo celebrating their March Madness moments together

Saint Mary's forward Mason Forbes, left, stands next to his sister, USC guard McKenzie Forbes.
St. Mary’s forward Mason Forbes, left, stands next to his sister, USC guard McKenzie Forbes, while celebrating the team’s West Coast Conference championship.
(Sasha Forbes)

The Forbes kids always were dreamers. They wrote down their goals on sticky notes, scribbled them in journals and typed them into notes apps. In their home outside of Sacramento, where their parents bolted a basketball hoop to the wall of the living room, they imagined themselves winning championships. They wove stories about arduous seasons and acted out games against opponents. There were even interviews at the end.

But even their most far-fetched childhood imaginings couldn’t predict that Mason, a forward for St. Mary’s, would be standing with the West Coast Conference trophy in his hands and a strand of the net tied in his championship hat next to his sister McKenzie, who two days earlier helped USC win its first Pac-12 tournament title since 2014. Beaming, the USC guard held up one finger while wearing her Pac-12 championship hat.

“It’s better than any story you could come up with,” Mason said.

This March, the youngest Forbes siblings are manifesting their wildest dreams.

The women’s NCAA basketball tournament is more compelling than the men’s, and all eyes will be on USC and UCLA in their quests for a national title.

March 18, 2024

After winning conference tournament championships in Las Vegas, they will play in the NCAA tournament this weekend. Mason’s fifth-seeded Gaels played No. 12 seed Grand Canyon on Friday night in the first round of the West Region in Spokane, Wash. McKenzie’s Trojans, who earned their first No. 1 seed in program history since 1986, host No. 16 Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Saturday afternoon at Galen Center.


Their parents are planning to attend every game, potentially traveling up to 4,817 miles for four games in four days, from Friday to Monday. It would be exhausting, especially after the emotional high of celebrating two championships in Las Vegas, but it would be worth it.

It’s what the siblings worked for.

“We’ve been talking about stuff like this our whole lives,” McKenzie said, “and to see it come to fruition is very special.”

Mason and McKenzie Forbes celebrate after Saint Mary's West Coast Conference tournament victory on March 12.
(Sasha Forbes)

Their family calls them twins, but McKenzie, 23, and Mason, 25, are separated by 16 months. They got into the same grade because Mason, like his older brothers Marcus and Max, repeated a year before high school. Despite the one-year difference, McKenzie played on almost all of Mason’s teams growing up.

From watching her older brothers’ practices and her father, Sterling Jr., who played for the Harlem Globetrotters, coach camps, McKenzie has been obsessed with basketball almost since she could walk. By 18 months she was wearing out her mother, Sasha, with dribbling drills. After NBA guard Bobby Jackson ran a camp at the family’s sports complex in the Sacramento area, the toddler chased him back from the parking lot to play one on one against her.


The USC women’s basketball team has transformed from Pac-12 afterthought to conference champion. Its resurgence goes beyond JuJu Watkins’ star power.

March 12, 2024

At home, the four siblings engaged in heated games that, at least once a month, resulted in someone shattering the glass of their father’s trophy case. Marcus, who is five years older than McKenzie, woke up his siblings at 6 a.m. to play “Invisible People,” a storytelling basketball game in which he would narrate elaborate scenarios about make-believe teammates who were arriving from Italy to face opponents possessed by evil minions. They would envision winning world championships from their living room.

“She’s always been a champion,” Marcus said.

Marcus acted out the opponents, partially as an excuse to scare his younger siblings, but also as a way to hone their skills. When they played two on two, Marcus and McKenzie drew up plays to try to overcome their bigger and more athletic brothers.

Watching the competitions was always fun, Sterling said, and while the parents never took sides, deep down they hoped McKenzie would win. She was their only daughter. Her brothers never took a single play off.

USC guard McKenzie Forbes celebrates after a win over Arizona.
USC guard McKenzie Forbes celebrates after a win over Arizona in the women’s Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals on March 7.
(Ian Maule / Associated Press)

“If they could steal the ball, they’d steal it. If they could block her shot, they’d block it,” Sterling said, “which gave her the skill set she has now.”


While Mason’s game is defined by emphatic dunks, high-energy rebounds and soaring blocks, McKenzie is a crafty, methodical wing. She’s USC’s second-leading scorer at 13.5 points per game in her first year with the Trojans and can get hot from three-point range in an instant. She’s got the toughness of someone who insisted she play tackle football — quarterback and linebacker — with her brothers. Playing up to four positions in a game, she organizes USC’s offense with maturity.

Forbes played 88 of 90 minutes against UCLA and Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament and committed just two turnovers while scoring 43 points. The Harvard transfer with ambitions to coach in the NBA even started suggesting ways the Trojans could scheme to get star freshman JuJu Watkins or forward Rayah Marshall open.

“It’s really a luxury of mine to have that kind of poise out there,” USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb said at the Pac-12 tournament. “I think the team takes her lead on that.”

When looking in the transfer portal for players to complement star freshman JuJu Watkins, Gottlieb, who coached McKenzie as a freshman at Cal, knew she needed veteran leadership to help guide the top-ranked prospect. Averaging 17.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in the Pac-12 tournament, McKenzie was named most outstanding player.

USC freshman star JuJu Watkins and the Trojans earned a No. 1 seed and will host Texas A&M Corpus Christi to open the women’s NCAA tournament.

March 17, 2024

Mason, a 6-foot-9 forward who opened his conference tournament with the Gaels the following day, arrived in Las Vegas about one hour before tip-off of the Pac-12 championship game against Stanford. He joined the family’s chant of “M-V-P” as McKenzie stood on stage.


While she packed to leave that evening, McKenzie’s journal fell out of her suitcase. She remembered she wrote her goals down that week, but couldn’t recall what she listed. Printed in black ink, a note read:

“I see myself getting selected as Pac-12 tourney MVP.”

“I am a Pac-12 tournament champion 2024.”

She immediately took a photo and texted it to Mason.

It was his turn to make his dreams come true.

They’ve been inseparable since ninth grade. They took classes together then went to the gym side by side. They shared their basketball dreams with each other, then held each other accountable for living up to them.

Neither would be where they are without the other, both Mason and McKenzie said.

Saint Mary's forward Mason Forbes, left, battles Gonzaga forward Anton Watson for the ball during a game on March 2.
(Godofredo A. Vásquez / Associated Press)

After becoming Folsom High’s all-time leading scorer, McKenzie signed with California. But when Gottlieb suddenly jumped to coach in the NBA, Forbes decided to transfer. The former McDonald’s All-American could have jumped to any number of top programs. Instead she set her sights on Harvard.

Mason already had helped the Crimson to a share of the Ivy League title as a freshman. McKenzie had to take six classes a semester at a junior college to boost her transcript to transfer to Harvard, where less than 1% of transfer applicants are accepted.


For the one year they were on campus together, they lived with three of Mason’s teammates. McKenzie cooked. Mason, unskilled in the kitchen, returned the favor by helping with her school work. They talked about basketball. They organized around social issues as Mason co-founded the Harvard Athletics Black Varsity Assn.

Mason graduated from Harvard one year before McKenzie and transferred to St. Mary’s for his final year of college eligibility. Having battled nagging injuries throughout his career, he redshirted last season. His return was stifled by a broken nose early in the season. He was in and out of the lineup, but after starting forward Joshua Jefferson suffered a leg injury in February, Mason stepped in seamlessly.

Which team has won the most NCAA women’s basketball tournament titles? March Madness begins this week with all-time leaders UConn and Tennessee in the hunt.

March 18, 2024

“He’s such an engine for us,” guard Alex Ducas told reporters after the WCC semifinal, in which Mason scored 18 points on eight-for-nine shooting. “When we lost J-Jeff, we knew we were going to be all right because this guy cares so much about the team.”

Mason made 11 of 12 shots from the field during the tournament to push the Gaels, who have won 23 of their last 25 games, into the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year. It’ll be Mason’s first time playing in the Big Dance.

“He could have gotten his Harvard degree and hung it up,” McKenzie said. “That would have been a mighty fine accomplishment, but I’m just proud of him for sticking with it.”


McKenzie returned to L.A. with the Trojans after the Pac-12 championship game and turned right around for a flight to watch Mason. Clutching onto Marcus through the tense title game, McKenzie couldn’t believe her family endured that type of stress when she played two days before. They all breathed easier when Mason grabbed a key offensive rebound with 4:57 remaining that led to a second-chance three-pointer and a six-point Gaels lead.

Seeing blue-and-white confetti floating through the air, tears started rolling down Marcus’ face. He remembered the games they played in their living room against invisible opponents.

This turned out even better than imagined.