Brothers, rivals unite for Blue Raiders

You can see the uncanny bond between Middle Tennessee State guards Tweety Knight and Marcos Knight when they operate in unison for the Blue Raiders.

Late in the second half of a 56-52 win against Vanderbilt on Dec. 21, Marcos penetrated, spun and no-looked a bullet pass to his younger brother, Tweety, as he cut toward the basket for an easy go-ahead layup. No words, no gestures, just synchronization. "I know exactly where he's going to be at all times," Tweety told ESPN.com.

You can see the natural animosity between two brothers who, like most brothers, occasionally grow tired of one another. Just take a look at the permanent scar on Marcos' left arm.

When they were in high school, Tweety seared his older brother's left arm with a hot iron simply because he'd swiped one of his favorite shirts. "It escalated from there," Marcos said.

Love helped the siblings focus on basketball and avoid unhealthy pastimes in the quiet town of Rentz, Ga. Well, love from a single mother who demanded two things from her sons (she has three): weekly church attendance and a vow that they'd never leave one another's side.

"When you see one you see the other one," Brenda Knight said. "'You brothers, you stick together, no matter what.' I brought them up that way. I really brought them out to hang with each other."

But the rivalry that brewed throughout their collective youth propelled the brothers to a level of excellence that's resulted in wins at all levels: AAU, high school, Middle Georgia Junior College and Middle Tennessee. Marcos, more than a year older than Tweety, constantly competed with his brother for the title of "best in the family." But they also pushed one another as teammates.

It's a characteristic that's followed them to Middle Tennessee. Tweety, a junior in his first season with the program after transferring from Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla., said he wants to send his brother, Marcos, a senior, to the NCAA tournament. He said he won't accept anything short of that.

So the duo practices with an intensity that's defined the entire Blue Raiders program. The goal, years later, remains the same: Prove that one is better than the other while pursuing their collective goals. And that relentlessness sometimes sparks clashes.

"First week he got up here at Middle Tennessee, in practice, we got into it, we got into a tussle on the floor," Marcos said. "Like two weeks ago, we got into another one before the [Tennessee State] game. We were checking each other, he was pushing me, I was pushing him. Coach [Kermit] Davis loves that kind of stuff in practice. So we still get into it basically every time we check each other on the court. If he's on the opposite team in practice, I talk noise at him, tell him he's garbage, he's sorry. I do a lot of things to want to make his game better."

But, they're still brothers. And they've never forgotten their mother's words: stay close.

As Davis chastised Tweety Knight in a practice earlier this season, Marcos Knight interrupted his rant. But he didn't back his coach.

"I was trying to coach Tweety in a real competitive way. But Marcos comes right in to his defense," Davis said. "It was almost like 'You know, Coach. All right, Tweety gets it, Coach, he gets it.' … It was like being on the playground. You pick on his brother, he's coming to his defense. And I love that about him."

Yet, their fiery personalities and connection defines a Middle Tennessee squad that's a contender for the Sun Belt title. It is one of the best defensive teams in the country (24th in Ken Pomeroy's efficiency ratings).

"They've always been tough," said Prenis Edmond, an uncle and pastor of their congregation.

The Blue Raiders have already defeated Central Florida, Vandy and Ole Miss. They suffered their first conference loss -- they're 4-1 in the Sun Belt -- at Arkansas State last week. Still, they remain confident, especially with Marcos (leads the team with 12.4 ppg) and Tweety (No. 1 with 1.6 spg and 2.7 apg) anchoring their effort.

The brothers picked up the game early. Local coaches begged Brenda to keep the boys involved with area sports when they were in elementary school. That's when she knew her sons had talent.

As a single mother working two jobs, however, she needed help with them. Family members and friends helped Marcos and Tweety stay focused.

If it wasn't their grandmother, then it was an uncle or a member of their church family.

The church, in Brenda Knight's home, was always more important than basketball. "I think that's why I am the man I am today," Marcos said.

At Greater Victory Temple, Inc., in Dublin, Ga., the brothers were active participants in various activities. But their most prominent contributions were made through their musical gifts.

When he was 3, Marcos began to play the drums. When Tweety decided that he wanted to play the drums, Marcos switched to the organ. And after one lesson, he figured out the rest.

The gospel songs that carried those church experiences demanded chemistry between the musicians who played them.

"Sometimes I'd give him a crazy look if he wasn't on line with me or I wasn't on line with him," Marcos said. Added Tweety: "It helped our bonding."

Marcos set the chorus and Tweety maintained the beat, a musical unity much like the togetherness they have on the court. It's a connection they've always had, one that's always overshadowed any beefs.

But both recognize that their story is incomplete. Tweety and Marcos linked up again at Middle Tennessee, however, to finish it.

And if the conclusion plays out the way they envision, then the two brothers celebrate together as they hear Middle Tennessee called on Selection Sunday.

"Words can't describe what it means for him being on my side my last year. It means so much," Marcos said.

Added Tweety: "As a younger brother, I just want to make his dream come true and make the NCAA tournament and win a Sun Belt title. It'd be unbelievable playing with my brother and having those two accomplishments."

Those conference title rings, however, could leave a mark.