Born 14 months apart, senior women’s basketball guards Andee and Bianca Velasco’s close bond as sisters growing up together led to them finding a shared love for basketball. This love for each other and the sport has defined their relationship through college and bring them together as a family.
Although not true biological twin sisters, the two of them have always seen each other as twins. The sisters have always done everything together. They have lived together their entire lives, share a car and have consistently been teammates on the basketball court. Their passion for playing together started in their youth with a competitive sibling rivalry that pushed both of them to higher levels of play. Knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses has helped them improve as players on the court and become better teammates for each other. They want to use their rivalry as a way to help each other in practice rather than letting it divide them.
“We definitely have that competitive drive in both of us,” said Bianca. “We always want to beat each other, but it’s never out of spite or anger … We push each other to be better and it’s always fun doing it.”
Their competitive drive is part of what led them to loving the game — the two of them continue to disagree on who is the better one-on-one player. Andee, the elder sister, developed a love for the game first due to her close relationship with their older brother who introduced her to basketball. Her quick attraction and quick grasp of the game pushed her to keep holding onto it throughout her life.
Andee’s love for the game, which started even before high school eventually found its way to Bianca. Bianca would find her passion for the game of basketball at a later stage in her life compared to Andee, who truly loved basketball before even starting high school. Both sisters attended Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana California and said that they enjoyed basketball more because they played it together. Andee was home-schooled and repeated the eighth grade, to heal from growth spurt related injuries and be in the same year as her sister, ESPNW reported in 2014. This would lead them to come to LMU, where they continue to play basketball together and keep intact their unbreakable bond.
“I really loved [basketball] when I was younger and I think it’s stayed with me all the way to this point,” said Andee. “The love of the game is actually what keeps us grinding and going. Especially these last four years, through everything.”
The sisters have also battled through hardships off the court during their four years at LMU. During their sophomore years, their mother, Lisa Velasco, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away from the disease in April of 2017.
Andee and Bianca said that they found and developed a certain strength throughout that difficult time. The two of them believe the experience with their mother and family has kept them grounded and reminded them that they always have one another.
“We are all each other has,” said Bianca. “Blood is thicker than water. No one understands my pain like Andee does.”
Through this difficult situation, the sisters had support from not only each other, but also their teammates. With a roster of mostly returning players from last season, the team served as additional family for the sisters to bond and grow with. “The courage, faith and strength that Andee and Bianca have shown over the past year is nothing short of miraculous,” said head coach Charity Elliott as reported by LMU Lions. Dealing with this tragic event while focusing on basketball demonstrated the strength of the sisters, as their mother supported them and came to every game. They want to continue to play for her and for each other.
The support of their teammates came from understanding one another, good communication and being on the same page both mentally and emotionally. It also gave them the strength to succeed and continue to play, which has allowed the team to become a stronger and closer family.
“That really drew our team closer to us. I personally view my teammates as my sisters,” said Bianca. “I think we all have a really good relationship and a good bond, and it makes us really strong on and off the court.”
The sisters mentioned how well they and their teammates get along. They know how to treat each other, what upsets one another and what makes each other better as they embark on the upcoming basketball season.
“Both the ups and downs have taught us a lot of lessons and how to react to certain situations,” said Andee. “We’ve come a long way and I think this year we’re the strongest we’ve been, and I think that’ll help us this season in our play.”
Their close relationship extends off the court and toward their future, following their collegiate basketball careers. Both business entrepreneurship majors, the duo plan on opening a business together in the beauty industry. They currently live together, as they have for their whole lives and do not plan on that changing anytime soon. Through good games and bad games, difficult personal events and the challenges that come with being student-athletes, the sisters’ comfort in each other and special connection have given them the encouragement to keep going.
“I can just look over and just kind of get that comforting smile,” said Bianca. “That’s the best part for me.”