They walked out of their Polynesian hula dancing class and into the nearby gym, just because they wanted something to do. They saw people shooting baskets and decided to try it themselves. They were only in the fourth grade.
Now 11 years later, they’re still playing basketball.
Junior guards and twin sisters Dynn and Lynn Leaupepe from Camarillo, California, are the two leading scorers on the Cal Poly women’s basketball team. They have been tearing up Big West Conference competition this season, and both rank in the top 30 all-time in school scoring history. Oh, and again, they’re only juniors.
The importance of family
From an early age, the Leaupepes were exposed to basketball. Like many Los Angeles area families, they loved the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant.
“We grew up watching the Lakers,” Dynn said. “We watched them play with our dad a lot. That’s something I remember most about growing up. It’s kind of how we learned the game of basketball as well.”
With eight other siblings and a Polynesian heritage, the Leaupepes felt family was everything. Every sibling would attend each others’ sporting events. Because of this, their family grew closer. The entire family still tries to every Cal Poly game to see Dynn and Lynn play. Although a full decade separates them from a couple of their siblings, it doesn’t change how they interact.
“Whenever we get together, it’s as if we never separated,” Lynn said.
The twins have only one younger sibling, their brother who is on the autism spectrum. Both Dynn and Lynn couldn’t help but smile when talking about him. He is a huge part of their childhood and an important part of what has helped shape them into who they are today.
“He taught us how to be more patient. He taught us to think more about other people’s lives,” Lynn said.
An early start
In the fourth grade, the Leaupepe twins decided to officially start their basketball careers.
They played on the same team up until their last year in recreation league basketball, winning a few youth championships along the way. By the time they were eighth-graders, the league decided it was too unfair to continue allowing both of them to be on the same team.
At that point, the twins realized they might be pretty good at this game called basketball.
High school challenges
At Camarillo High School, the Leaupepe twins worked every day to have the chance to play in college. They wanted scholarships to play Division I basketball and nothing was going to stand in their way. That included showing up early to practice and going to the gym on the weekends, constantly perfecting their skills.
However, Lynn suffered a major setback as a junior. She tore her lateral meniscus and missed most of the season.
“I was devastated. I was so sad,” Lynn said. “I was just motivated to come back and get better. Missing those 10 games was so hard to just watch and not be able to play.”
She tore her medial meniscus senior year but decided to play through it. She couldn’t stay out again. Lynn had surgery after her senior year and has stayed healthy ever since.
Dynn and Lynn were recruited by most Big West schools — and yes, they were a package deal. Cal Poly won the recruiting sweepstakes and soon enough, the twins were in San Luis Obispo.
Cal Poly progression
With the same major, recreation, parks and tourism administration concentrating in experience industry management, the Leaupepe twins have grown even closer in college. They take classes together, live together and practice together. School has always been a major focus for the twins so the adjustment to college was relatively easy.
Adjusting to college basketball has also come easy to the twins and they’ve progressed to become the team’s top scorers.
“They’ve learned how to control their speed and be more savvy by getting around people,” head coach Faith Mimnaugh said.
Since their freshman year, Dynn and Lynn have increased their shot attempts per game, free throw percentage and points per game, evolving from bench players to starters to leaders.
Both Dynn and Lynn have career highs of 31 points and seven rebounds, started every game this season and average more than 26 minutes per game.
The twins have gone from learning who plays in the Big West to being in the top five league leaders in several categories.
Currently, Lynn and Dynn are fifth and sixth in the conference in scoring at 14.8 and 14.6 points per game. These numbers are far more than the 5.0 and 7.9 points per game they averaged their freshman year.
This increased scoring has spurned new leadership roles for the Camarillo kids. Combined with strong work ethics, the Leaupepe twins have become a driving force for the Mustangs this season.
“Any time we ask them to step up and talk on defense or encourage their teammates, they’re the first ones to do that now,” Mimnaugh said about the twins. “They certainly are leaders in their actions on the court, but they’re also leaders verbally.”
Dynn and Lynn have grown together into impressive college basketball players. This progression will likely lead to more wins, possibly new school records and hopefully a Big West title.
When asked about who would win in a one-on-one game, the twins couldn’t help laughing. They’ve never played one-on-one, and they never will.
They play and grow together, not against each other. And that’s what makes them so great.