Basketball brotherhood: Mercer basketball’s Stair brothers

Basketball is a family affair for brothers Evan (left) and Ethan (right) Stair. Photo by Mitch Robinson.

Basketball is a family affair for brothers Evan (left) and Ethan (right) Stair. Photo by Mitch Robinson.

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Fans of Mercer basketball will recognize Ethan Stair as one of the team’s key contributors this season. After battling a variety of injuries the past two years, Stair has started every game for the Bears this year and is averaging 11.1 points per game.

Fans may not know, however, that Ethan’s younger brother Evan is one of the team’s managers, a group that has recently formed a team of its own to compete against other schools in the “Manager Games.” I caught up with the pair to find out about their history with basketball and how that plays into their relationship with each other.

How did you both end up at Mercer?

Ethan: Mercer started recruiting me my junior year of high school, so I had really good ties with one of the assistant coaches here.

Evan: I just followed him.

What was your sibling rivalry like growing up?

Evan: When we were little, we would always play basketball in the driveway with one of our friends who lived down the street. The two of them would always gang up on me-

Ethan: I disagree with that, that was never what happened. I felt like I was always the one who got ganged up on. (laughs) But we did have some pretty big fights over some basketball games that would carry over into our neighbor’s yard. I’m sure they liked us a lot.

Is the rivalry still that competitive today?

Evan: No, we haven’t fought since we were probably eight years old.

Ethan: Yeah, we’ve kind of grown since then. (laughs)

How often do you get mistaken for each other?

(in unison): All the time.

Evan: Just the other day, a girl came up to me and said, “Hey Ethan.” I basically go by Ethan now. Even my professors will call me Ethan sometimes, so it doesn’t really matter to me anymore.

Ethan (joking): I actually get mistaken for my sister more than Evan. (laughs) But we’ve pretty much gotten used to it by now. I mean, our parents will even mix us up sometimes. Our sister has an “E” name too, so the three of us always get confused.

Did you ever play basketball on the same team growing up?

Evan: Yeah, the first time was in high school in my sophomore year and his senior year.

Ethan: It was really cool, because I had never been on the same team with him since he was so much younger. He got called up to the varsity and was probably the best defender we had. His job was just to guard the other team’s best player full-court, and he always did that without any complaints.

Evan: And Ethan was just Ethan. (laughs)

Ethan: I was the tallest guy on our team, so I got a lot of rebounds. I’d pass it up to Evan, and then he’d pass it right back. (both laugh)

Do you have any traditions or things that you do together on game days?

Ethan: I always make sure to go over and talk to him. He always tells me something that I need to do or look for during the game. I get frustrated with myself a lot, and I just turn to him and he’s always there to keep my head up.

What’s it like seeing your brother play Division 1 basketball?

Evan: I mean, I’ve been doing it my whole life, so it’s nothing really anything new. But after seeing him hurt the past couple of years, it makes it really cool to see him be back on the floor.

How much fun is it to see Evan playing in the manager games?

Ethan: Coach Hoffman actually offered him a walk-on spot when he got here, but he turned it down. I’ve always tried to get him back on the court with me, so it’s awesome to see him out there again. I know he misses it, and he loves basketball just as much as I do. I definitely think he could be out there playing with us or with another school.

Which of you would win one-on-one and why?

Evan: I think the last time we played was last year. It’s actually more evenly split than you would think. I’ve played against him my whole life, so I know how to guard him.

Ethan: I feel like Evan is the best defender I’ve ever played against. He usually locks me down, but just because I’m taller I can usually win.

Evan: He wins most of them, but I get my fair share.

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