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Childhood rivalry helps Kurz siblings reach goals

In the backyard of their home in Lower Gwynedd, Pa., Laura Kurz and her brother Rob spent countless hours honing their basketball skills in hopes of carrying on their family's hoops legacy.

Their heated battles paid off, propelling each to NCAA Division I basketball programs-Laura to Duke and Rob to Notre Dame.

Basketball runs deep in the bloodline for the Kurz family. Not only did Laura and Rob's grandparents play basketball, but their mother and father both competed as well.

"Basketball was in our blood," Laura said. "I had a lot of cousins, aunts, and uncles who had played. Even my grandmothers both played. So, I grew up around the sport."

Their mother Carol Kurz-formerly Carol Way-was an integral part of the Lafayette basketball team from 1975-1979 and set a school record by averaging 14.0 rebounds per game in the 1975-1976 season. Their father, Rob Kurz, also attended Lafayette, but his playing career was cut short when he injured his knee following his senior year of high school basketball.

Their father said the fact that basketball was so much a part of their family atmosphere contributed to Rob and Laura's interest, but that the two were so athletic and competitive that they naturally gravitated toward the sport when they were young.

After Rob and Laura began playing together in the same township league during their childhood, a heated rivalry developed between the two. Their father said Laura and Rob engaged in one-on-one wars on the driveway basketball court, which he expanded to virtually the size of a half-court basketball floor. He also added an outdoor light for late-night match-ups.

"The experience playing against Rob and practicing against boys through eighth grade made Laura into a more physical post player," the elder Kurz said.

The pair's road to Division I basketball began at Germantown Academy-the high school that also produced Duke sharpshooter Lee Melchionni. Their paths, however, diverged after Rob's sophomore year.

Laura said Rob was not satisfied with the attention he was receiving from the coaching staff at the powerhouse basketball program at Germantown. He subsequently transferred to William Penn Charter, where both Rob's father and grandfather had attended. The school also happened to be the bitter rival of Germantown.

Although Rob's career flourished in his new environment, Laura said whenever the two schools would compete in boys basketball, the Germantown fans would chant, "Laura is better!"

Because of the transfer, Rob repeated his sophomore year and the two ended up in the same graduating class of 2004. Laura said neither of them would have had a problem going to the same college, but their interests led them in different directions.

"Both Rob and Laura had options," their father said. "We encouraged them to consider academics, coaching staff, school and players in their college decision."

In the end, Rob chose to head north to Notre Dame, where he is averaging 6.1 points and 4.6 rebounds this season as a sophomore. Laura took a different path and headed south to Duke, where she is averaging 5.9 points and 2.7 rebounds this year.

As a sophomore, Laura has been asked to fill a number of roles for the No. 2 Blue Devils. During the off-season she worked to improve her post game to complement her already proficient shot.

Even though their backyard games are a thing of the past, the Kurz siblings still find time to offer advice on how to improve each others' games.

"If I see him on TV and I see he is not boxing out or playing good aggressive D, I will definitely let him know," Laura said. "I never hold back because he tells me if I'm not working hard enough, or he'll make fun of me if I get blocked. It's always been like that."

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