When Sydney and Sadie Cleveland found themselves checked into a GC basketball game together, for the first time after high school, it was just like old times for the two sisters.
“One of the first times we played together for college, she passed me the ball and cut to the basket, and as soon as I caught it, I saw her cut, and I gave it right back and scored and got fouled,” said freshman Sadie Cleveland.
This wasn’t the first time Sydney assisted Sadie during a game, but it was the first time the feat had been accomplished with both playing as members of the GC women’s basketball team. The moment merited a brief celebration by the sisters.
“We ran and hugged and jumped all over each other,” Sadie said. “Our coaches called a timeout, and he asked if that was the first time we scored together because we were acting like it was the first. It was just funny because everyone was just laughing at us and so excited.”
Both sisters started playing basketball at a very young age—kindergarten and first grade—and they were hooked almost immediately.
Despite being only two years apart in age, Sydney said that she didn’t play much organized basketball with her sister until Sadie’s freshman year of high school when Sydney was a junior.
Once the sisters found their way onto the court of North Hall High School, they soon fell in love with the sport and with playing together.
“She’s my favorite teammate,” Sadie said. “I love playing with her.”
Sydney rebounded this feeling about her sister, saying that when given the choice, she always picks her sister to be on her team first.
“I know how good of a ball player she is,” Sydney said, “and I wanted her on my team.”
However, during high school, Sydney tore her ACL twice, and the two sisters only played together for a year before Sydney moved off to GC to begin her collegiate basketball career.
But during Sydney’s sophomore year at GC, she soon caught wind that Sadie was getting attention from GC’s coaching staff. At the beginning of the recruitment process, Sydney said she was on the fence about the whole recruitment process.
“When she first started getting recruited, I was upset because I was like, ‘Man, she’s always copying me and everything I do,’” said the elder Cleveland.
However, once Sadie arrived on campus and the two began playing together once again, Sydney said that their friendship blossomed even more.
“We actually spend a lot of time together here, whether it’s meeting for lunch between classes, going to dinner or going over to her house to play cards with her and her roommates, we do a lot together,” Sadie said. “I mean, we give each other space, and we don’t bother each other too much, but we have found a balance to where we spend time [together] but also have separate lives.”
On the court, the two have also found a balance between competing against one another and sharing advice with the other to improve for next time.
“Sydney shows Sadie the ropes and does a good job at leadership,” said teammate Ta’Asia Wright. “She gives her confidence. Sydney is a great example for Sadie, and Sadie is going to follow in her footsteps once Sydney leaves.”
Like Wright, Bobcats head coach Maurice Smith marveled at the leadership Sydney Cleveland has brought to the team and her sister on the court, and he also praised the high-character attitudes both sisters embody.
“We are talking about two high-character young ladies,” Smith said. “I want my two daughters to have what they have—discipline and character—but their leadership has transformed this team, especially Sydney’s.”
Smith also added that Sadie possesses the tools to be a great leader as well.
“It’s going to take time for her to be comfortable and develop those tools,” Smith said. “Those sisters embody the most productive, successful person somebody could be.”
Sadie also mentioned that her sister provides basketball-related advice and pointers to her on how to cut to one side better or to pass the ball better in a certain play.
"Sydney is a great example for Sadie, and Sadie is going to follow in her footsteps once Sydney leaves."
-Teammate Ta'Asia Wright
“When Sydney guards me, she gets all up in my case, which she knows I hate,” said Sadie. “But I know that the reason she is doing this is to teach me that opposing players aren’t going to let up, so why should I?”
And even though the two sisters aren’t seeing many minutes on the court together right now, Sydney said it’s only a matter of time before her sister joins her and starts competing for major minutes on the hardwood.
“Her being a freshman and her getting used to the team, yeah, she might not be getting playing time right away, but I know she’s a great player, and her time is coming,” said Sydney. “So when it comes to that time, and we are on the court together, it’s going to be light’s out.”