College basketball: Twins have identical impact on Bobcats

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LEWISTON — Marcus Delpeche laughed the first time a guidance counselor at Delaware’s Wilmington Friends School suggested he consider continuing his education at Bates College.

Sitting inside Bates’ venerable Alumni Gym five years later, his identical twin, Malcolm, admits he would have made his feelings on such a notion verbal. 

“If someone ever told me I was going to be in Maine of all places, I would have told them ‘You’re crazy,'” Malcolm said.  

And he’s the quiet one.

Now seniors, Marcus and Malcolm Delpeche are making college basketball fans do several double-takes from the moment they first take the floor. 

Malcolm is a 6-foot-8 center. Marcus is a 6-7 forward. Besides leading the Bobcats in numerous statistical categories, both are the backbone of head coach Jon Furbush’s defense. Malcolm controls the paint. Marcus usually matches up with the biggest threat to do damage anywhere else on the floor.

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Athletic, energetic, analytical and, yes, there is an unspoken on-court connection between them, the twins are leading the Bobcats through a bounce-back season while reaching cult celebrity status in Division III basketball.

Malcolm and Marcus don’t mind drawing attention from their play on the court. They feed as much off the crowds in their cozy home gym as the crowd feeds off of their high-flying exploits. 

But they’re also thankful their notoriety as one of the best twin teammates NESCAC has seen didn’t really explode until they had the maturity to deal with all of its trappings.

“To be called the ‘Twin Towers’ and all of this other stuff, we’re definitely more comfortable with that than we would be our freshman year,” Malcolm said. “At this point, it’s just come to be. It’s part of the atmosphere that you’re used to.”

“Freshman year, we both just kind of had our own thing. We were trying to each go our own way,” Marcus said. “Playing together and working together, we’re more in sync (on the court) and it’s like the twin connection. We operate well together, and being successful, that just comes along with it.”

Fans drawn to them in pregame warm-ups as curiosities quickly discover their individual talent and impact on the game once the game starts.

Furbush could only salivate over the possibilities when he first saw them playing together in a Delaware AAU game. 

“It’s one of those 8 a.m. games no one really wants to be on the court, and they stood out first with their ability to run the floor for 6-7, 6-8 guys,” Furbush said. “More importantly, it was the defensive energy they brought and their communication on that end of the floor.”

In the midst of building a program whose hallmark is tough defense, Furbush knew he had to have them both at Bates.

Recruiting against a handful of Division II schools, Furbush built his full-court press on the twins around his school’s academic offerings and the fact that he wanted them both and both could play immediately for him.

The twins hit it off with Furbush instantly, and a former school mate at Wilmington who was at Bates at the time sold them on it being a bigger version of their old school. 

“Obviously, basketball played a huge factor,” Malcolm said. “It definitely helps us survive the cold.”

“I never would have thought I would have ended up in Maine but I’ve definitely never regretted coming up here at any point,” Marcus said.

Thrown into the starting lineup as freshmen, Malcolm, who went on to become the NESCAC Rookie of the Year, and Marcus learned simultaneously they had a lot of work to do to reach their full potential.

The Bobcats won 11 games that year, then improved to 21 wins and earned an NCAA tournament bid their sophomore year.

They regressed to 10-14 last year, which only made the twins determined to prove their sophomore success wasn’t a fluke. 

Furbush had no doubt his two best players would take on a greater leadership role this year after deferring to seniors in past years. Neither did the twins, whose accountability starts with themselves and each other. 

“I would say me and my brother are our biggest critics,” Malcolm said. “We definitely understand we’ve had to work very hard to get where we are. You have to be critical of yourself to make yourself better, and not just make improvements but make improvements that will benefit your team.”

“I don’t know if they’ve lost a sprint in practice in four years. One of them always wins sprints,” Furbush said. “Now, they’re the guys and they know everything flows through them.”

The numbers and accolades they’ve compiled this season start to make that clear. Marcus (14.9 ppg) leads the Bobcats in scoring, rebounding (9.7), field goal percentage (55 percent), is second in blocks and ended January as NESCAC’s Player of the Week.

Malcolm broke Bates’ career blocked shots record en route to becoming the league leader in blocks (3.2 per game). He’s also second on the Bobcats in scoring (12.9) and tied for the team lead in steals.

As a team, the Bobcats have had as many ups-and-downs this season as the twins experienced in their first three seasons.

Wins over arch-rivals Bowdoin and Colby highlighted a seven-game winning streak, which was immediately followed by a three-game losing streak.

A three-game winning streak featuring a big one over NESCAC leader Tufts didn’t completely get them back on track. They take another three-game losing streak into Sunday’s season finale against Williams, where they hope to even up their 4-5 conference record. 

The twins will make the Bobcats an X-factor in the NESCAC tournament and hopefully a subsequent return to the NCAAs.

“Honestly, there’s no team we feel like we can’t beat,” Marcus said. “Any loss that we have are going to be the result of the efforts we put forth. We’re in charge of our own destiny this year. Our team has been really good about that this season. In practice, our coach is always communicating with us about something we can do better, and we’re all making sure that we’re paying attention to that.”

The Delpeches have paid even closer attention to what will happen when the season ends. Both are psychology majors forging careers in sports psychology. Both are weighing work and graduate school opportunities after they get their degrees in May.

“The cliche is the ball stops bouncing, but that’s the reality,” Marcus said. “Having something to do once this is all over is something you don’t want to take lightly.”

They don’t take Bates’ impact on their future lightly, either. Both expressed gratitude for Furbush’s presence as coach, teacher and mentor and the relationships they’ve built in Maine (they spent one school break with the family of former Bates teammate and Mountain Valley star Cam Kaubris). 

“Coach does all kinds of non-basketball stuff like that for the players who aren’t from Maine,” Malcolm said. “It lets us know we’re not just here to play basketball. We’re here to establish a bond that’s going to go on beyond the season and beyond Bates College.”

“They’re both just fantastic people,” Furbush said. “It goes well beyond the basketball court.”

Twins from Delaware, Malcolm, left, and Marcus Delpeche, both seniors, have had an identical impact on Bates College basketball.

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