Miami’s Cavinder twins reach March Madness after transfer

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Miami’s women’s basketball practice ended 30 minutes ago. Most of the coaches were gone. Almost all the players were gone. The board had long since been turned off.

The Cavinder twins were still working.

Haley and Hannah Cavinder worked their way around the 3-point arc, one shooting, then the other, over and over with a few practice men rebounding. The boys didn’t have to do much as almost every shot went over the net with a thump.

“What nobody knows about the twins,” Miami coach Katie Meyer said, “is that they’re gym rats.”

NCAA Tournament-bound gym rats, that is, with ninth-seeded Miami facing eighth-seeded Oklahoma State on Saturday in Indiana in the Greenville 2 Regional. The twins are big influencers with 4.4 million followers on TikTok alone, two of the biggest stars of the NIL era in college athletics, a pair of 22-year-olds who didn’t set out to become famous through short videos. They’re as serious about basketball as they are about anything else, although it’s not always noticeable by those in the comment section.

“I’m not going to sit here and say it hasn’t disappointed me. It is,” said Haley Cavinder, the older twin by two minutes. “I want in, you have to prove it. But that comes with it. I think people will paint you however they want. And if I’m known as an influencer and I’m successful, then that’s fine with me.

Haley Cavinder leads the Hurricanes in scoring with an average of 12.6 points per game. Hannah Cavinder is coming off the bench, averaging 4.0 points and is fourth on the team in three-pointers.

They came to Miami after playing three seasons at Fresno State, deciding to transfer last spring with the goal of making the NCAA Tournament. When the NIL era began on July 1, 2021, and NCAA rules began allowing athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness, the Cavinders were among the first stars: Boost Mobile signed them immediately, advertising the deal with a giant ad in the New Times Square in York and many other deals followed.

To put it bluntly, they were millionaires before they came to Miami. Success had already found them and would continue to find them no matter where they played. And they freely admit that Miami had obvious advantages when they transferred: phenomenal weather, family ties to the area, and an immediate liking for the campus.

“I’m not going to sit here and lie. Haley and I were perfectly fine in Fresno with NIL,” Hannah Cavinder said. “Quite well. I have not transferred for NIL. We didn’t need it. I’m just going to put this out there and I’m trying to say it in the most humble way possible. Does the Miami market help? yes I’m not going to sit here and deny that either. I’m not stupid. But at the end of the day, I came here for basketball, I came here to play on Saturday and be in March Madness. That was our goal. That’s why we trained so hard in the gym.”

The year in Miami wasn’t always easy.

Their recruiting was immediately scrutinized and resulted in Meyer missing the first three games of that season due to a university-imposed suspension that was handed down pending NCAA sanctions. Last month, Miami received a year of probation after the school and the NCAA agreed that coaches arranged illegal contact between Booster and Cavinders.

The twins have done nothing wrong. Their admissibility was not in jeopardy. But they were in the headlines anyway.

“I was in archeology class and I got a nice notification (on Twitter),” Haley Cavinder said. “I try not to react based on emotion. We both knew we had never done anything wrong. In this case, when it happened, I was like, “Here we go.”

Hannah Cavinder added: “If you really know what happened and you really read the various articles and understand the world of basketball, nothing wrong was done. It’s right there in front of you. But people really don’t understand and they just see the story and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, they’re in trouble.’

After the NCAA decision, Cavinders responded — fittingly — on TikTok with a 15-second statement that asked “dear NCAA, are you scared that female athletes have value?”

It has 2.2 million views and more than 100,000 likes. It’s an average day for the twins: their TikToks alone have been liked more than 130 million times.

“The thing is, it’s NOT, it’s a controversial topic to begin with,” Haley Cavinder said. “It’s new. A lot of people don’t get it. A lot of older people don’t get it. So with that, there’s already opinions. Hanna and I are pioneering it and that’s what comes with it.

Their rise to fame began during the pandemic, out of boredom. Their TikTok videos, mostly of dancing, went viral. They became stars, the timing was right with NIL about to happen and they reaped the benefits.

What makes Meyer and his teammates appreciate them is the work. They may have photo shoots, interviews, or other duties outside of class, but basketball is never cheated. Haley has better stats on the court; “Nobody’s going to get ahead of her,” Hannah said. And Hannah has a better mindset when it comes to making the most of the 24 hours in a day; “It’s like she’s my manager. My twinager,” Haley said.

They were inseparable. This could soon be over in the basketball sense. Haley Cavinder will play in Miami next season and will benefit from an additional year of eligibility; Hanna Cavinder is not sure if she will continue to play.

“There is no one closer to me than Haley in the world,” said Hannah Cavinder. “I love basketball. I ride or die basketball. I have given so much of my life to basketball. And sometimes I think I just want to breathe. I have to go back and weigh my pros and cons.”

No matter what happens with basketball, TikToks will continue. Their joint work will continue. Their shared entrepreneurship will continue.

“I’m going to do what’s best for me,” Haley Cavinder said, “and I want what’s best for her.”

And with that, they were out. The NCAA tournament is upon us. The Cavinder twins still had work to do.


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