Sibling revelry at BC
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.
Actually, he is a little heavy. The brother of Boston College basketball forward Corey Raji weighs 337 pounds. And he’s playing in the Super Bowl Sunday.
“A lot of people don’t know B.J. is my brother,’’ said BC’s senior slasher. “Not everybody can say that their brother is playing in the Super Bowl. It’s just a blessing to have somebody that close to me in one of the biggest games in the world.’’
It’s hard to believe Corey and B.J. have the same parents. Corey, 22, is 6 feet 6 inches and weighs 218 pounds. B.J., a 24-year-old nose tackle for the Green Bay Packers, is 6-2 and weighs about 120 more pounds than his little brother. They have not shared clothes, not even when both were on the Chestnut Hill campus from 2007-09.
“We just have two different body types,’’ said Corey, who scored 16 points against North Carolina when the Eagles got smoked by the Tar Heels Tuesday night. “I don’t know. We ate the same. A lot of people think he ate more than me, but he’s not a big eater. We have some big uncles on my dad’s side. I guess he takes after them.’’
The Raji boys grew up in Washington Township, N.J., and starred at Westwood High School before earning scholarships to BC. Corey was New Jersey High School Player of the Year in 2006-07 and followed B.J. to Chestnut Hill, choosing BC over Miami and Virginia.
Their parents, Busari and Mamie Raji, are Pentecostal ministers. Busari grew up in Nigeria and prefers soccer and tennis over football and basketball. Ask him about the diverse body types of his sons and he says, “If you meet me, you cannot believe it. I am 5-11 and weigh 150 pounds. I’m not kidding. It’s in the genes somewhere.’’
The boys were born two years apart, which means there was a lot of competition at the hoop in the family driveway.
“I started beating him my freshman year when he was a senior,’’ said Corey. “I often try to use my speed against him, but that didn’t work because he’s fast as well. So I would just try to shoot over him.
“We both were being competitive. There was a lot of trash talk, but no major fights. He tried to get me to play football, but I never went. We tried to get him to play basketball when I was a freshman, but he didn’t want to. He always looked out for me.’’
B.J. was entrenched as one of BC’s best linemen when Corey arrived on campus in the fall of 2007.
“It was a combination of education and athletics that got me here,’’ says Corey. “And B.J., seeing the success he was having. Everybody wants to have somebody to follow. With him being here, that sealed the deal. Him playing football and me playing basketball, not many kids get to do that.’’
“Education is very important to our family,’’ said the proud dad. “I always told them, ‘If you are going to impress anyone, impress them with your intelligence.’ ’’
Corey averaged 8.3 points as a freshman and was up to 11.4 last year under Al Skinner. He started every game of his sophomore and junior seasons. BC’s new coach, Steve Donahue, stripped Raji of his starting position early this season, but Raji is back in the first five and scored a total of 34 points in the last two games against Duke and North Carolina. Corey is averaging 13 points and 6.5 rebounds for the 14-8 Eagles.
A lefty gunner, he has found his range from beyond the arc, splashing five of nine treys in the last two games. The Eagles are home against Virginia Tech Saturday and hope to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
“New coach, new system,’’ said Raji, a soft-spoken arts and science major. “We just have more freedom to play basketball this year.
“Last year we were in a compact offense. This year it’s more spread, up and down, which is good. The coaching staff is great, always there when you need them.
“Personally, I feel great. I’m helping my team in ways that I can. When I come off the bench, I try to bring the energy and spark that we need.’’
How did he feel when he lost his starting spot?
“It was Coach’s decision,’’ he said. “I didn’t have a particularly good game against Yale early in the season. Coach’s motto is that if you work hard in practice, you’re going to play. Danny Rubin was having a terrific week and he got the job.
“I never looked back from it. That can hurt my team. I just went with it. It didn’t hurt us much at all. We were still winning and I was still playing starter’s minutes.’’
He’ll be in his room in Edmonds Hall when the Packers take on the Steelers Sunday night. He remembers being there two weeks ago when B.J. intercepted a pass and ambled 18 yards into the end zone in the NFC Championship game against the Bears. The largest player to score an NFL touchdown, B.J. celebrated a tad early on that pick-6, and was almost stripped of the football before crossing the goal line.
“It’s the first time I ever saw him score a touchdown,’’ said Corey. “People said he shouldn’t have put the ball out there, but that’s just the excitement. You just want to celebrate. I was just laughing and happy, watching him score.’’
Corey gets texts from B.J. after every game. He says the highlight of his BC career thus far was a win over No. 1 Duke at Conte Forum in his sophomore season. He’s hoping to get some looks from the NBA after graduation but figures he can play in Europe if he doesn’t make it to the Association.
There’s a third Raji brother back home in New Jersey, 15-year-old Adekunle. He’ll be flying to Dallas with his parents tomorrow.
What does baby brother play?
“The sax,’’ said Corey. “We tried to get him to play sports, but sports is not for everybody.’’
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.