But they are ushering in a new era of college sports.
And it all started with videos they made to fight boredom last year while in quarantine.
As twins, they are a unique brand
The college juniors are both 5-foot-6 — undersized for Division 1 basketball — and major in business. They rarely wear matching outfits, but their basketball stats are almost identical.
“Haley and Hanna are blessed with unique qualities, such as being twin sisters who both excel in Division I basketball, but their stardom off the court goes far beyond that,” said Frank Pucher, senior associate athletics director at Fresno State.
“They are the perfect representation of the modern-day collegiate athlete. They are incredibly hardworking in their sport, they excel academically and they have clearly thought about and defined the path they want to go in life beyond sport.”
By spring 2021 they had more than 3 million followers on TikTok, plus sizable followings on YouTube and Instagram, making them valuable to advertisers and sponsors trying to reach diverse audiences outside of basketball.
Their growing online fame has further boosted their popularity with the Fresno State fan base.
“They are fan favorites, in part due to their off the court stardom,” Pucher said, “but more so as a result of the way they play the game and the success they have on the court.”
They started playing basketball before preschool
“Right from the beginning, they seemed super competitive,” said their mother, Katie Cavinder.
When they were 3 or 4 it was not enough for them to just dive into the family swimming pool — they would do back flips, Tom Cavinder said. When the girls laced up at the skating rink for the first time, they moved like they’d done it for years. By their second lap around the rink they were skating backward, he said.
“They have such a chip on their shoulder because of their size,” their dad said.
Before they reached high school the twins were already getting offers from colleges to play basketball. But their fame has not changed them, he said.
“They are good kids, they go to church on their own … they really care about other people,” Tom Cavinder said. “When you take all of the basketball stuff away, we want all of our girls to be good people, and we want them to build their own successes.”
Student athletes are jumping into uncharted waters
Until this month, the Cavinders and other college athletes were considered amateurs by the NCAA and were banned from marketing themselves.
Now they’re jumping into uncharted waters, hoping to get a piece of a lucrative pie. As many as 460,000 NCAA student-athletes across the country can now sign sponsorship deals, and big consumer brands are exploring this untapped market.