They were the big men and unsung heroes on one of Baltimore's most accomplished high school basketball teams. The 6-foot-6 transfers provided toughness in the paint, allowing guards Kamau Stokes, Timmy Bond and Omari George to flourish and lead City to a 27-0 record that culminated with the Class 3A state championship. Stokes (Kansas State), Bond (Eastern Michigan) and George (Bowie State) have all since gone on to successful college careers. But whatever happened to John and Juwan Grant?
Two years since the Knights' undefeated run to the state title, Baltimore basketball fans have their answer. The Grant twins signed this month with Savannah State, a Division I program that finished 8-7 in the MEAC this season.
"It feels great," Juwan said. "It's something that me and my brother have wanted for a long time. It just feels so surreal. Everything has fallen into place. Having the opportunity to play Division I ball is out of this world for us. Everything just feels really good right now."
After the euphoria of City's title wore off, the Grants buckled down to find a college program where they both could play. They settled on Washington Adventist, an NAIA Division II school in Takoma Park. One year there was enough for John and Juwan to decide they wanted to take another shot at playing Division I basketball.
Enter Jay Dull, Howard County Community College's head coach and a former longtime assistant at Coppin State.
"I just felt that it could be a mutual benefit to them and to us," Dull said. "Obviously it brought some size to our team, which we definitely needed. And for them, I think with my staff's experience and me having coached and recruited coast to coast, I have a lot of connections. My staff has a lot of connections. We just felt that we could help them and they could help our program in terms of the skillset they brought. They're both very skilled offensive type players. We felt that from an offensive standpoint they could make us pretty potent."
Dull's expectations for offensive potency from the Grants came to fruition. Juwan led HCC in scoring with 20.2 points per game, in addition to averaging 8.1 rebounds. John added 15.8 points per game and a team-high 9.6 rebounds.
At City "we were more role players," John said. "We played our roles well. Rebound, play defense, score when you can. … [Our roles at HCC were] very different. It's a role I wasn't used to. It's a role that demanded a lot. I appreciated it, honestly. Being a role player has its ups and downs. Being ... the go-to guys was very rewarding."
Though the Dragons struggled through a 3-20 season, the Grants' play caught the attention of several DI and DII coaches. Though the twins considered the possibility of splitting up if one was getting better offers than the other, both eventually decided that MEAC schools provided the best chance at staying together.
They didn't always agree on which MEAC school would be best, however. John liked Hampton and Howard. Juwan thought about Coppin and Morgan State, though he ultimately decided that the "objective was to ... leave home." With Baltimore ruled out, the twins focused on Savannah State.
"Both of us went down on the visit and enjoyed the campus and enjoyed the players there. I said, 'Hey bro, what do you want to do?' He tried to sell me a little bit more," John said.
Said Juwan: "I just worked on him and told him, 'Yeah, I think Savannah State is a good fit for both of us. Nice people, nice coaches, the system seems great. Everything seems fun.' We might as well go to a good school that's going to help us accomplish our goals."
Having coached in the MEAC from 2005-2014, Dull was quite familiar with Savannah State. He said Tigers coach Horace Broadnax will demand great effort defensively from the twins.
"They really like John's ability to get to the rack," Dull said. "Anytime at the MEAC level when you get a wing player that's 6-6 and finishes with both hands around the rim, that's a major positive. Juwan, [they like] his shooting ability and [the thought of] using him as a pick-and-pop type person. No question that they, from an offensive standpoint, they can play at that level. How much they play will be determined by how hard they play on the defensive end. Just knowing Horace Broadnax as a defensive-oriented coach is going to require those guys to play defense if they want to stay on the floor."
John, who plans to major in business or marketing, and Juwan, who intends to study nursing, both say they're up to the challenge.
Savannah State "can expect hard work, that's the No. 1 thing," Juwan said. "Once me and my brother start playing, we start to click. It doesn't take long. I don't think there are too many players who can stop what we have. I know what he's going to do, he knows the type of pass I want and just basic things. Nothing but good things. Highlights, wins, everything."