Tariq and Malik Abdulgader are hard to miss. For the last three years, the six-and-a-half foot twins have played on the Piedmont men’s basketball team as forwards. At a distance, the pair may seem menacing: two titans, one sporting fluffy curls and a dark goatee, the other with a clean-shaven head and bushy beard. Up close, however, their wholesome charm and brotherly love shine nearly as brightly as their persistent smiles.
“We do everything together,” Tariq said. “It’s like the saying, ‘from the womb to the tomb.’ We’ve been through so much together, and we’re always there for each other when we need help. He’s been there with me for my whole life.”
Their bond began in Roswell, G.A., where the twins were born in 1997. They grew up doing everything together, and even discovered their passion for basketball at the same time.
“Most people start playing basketball at a really young age, but we didn’t start playing until the eighth grade,” Malik said. “We had to do a lot of extra work to catch up to other players, and having Tariq there always helped me stay motivated. I would see him doing drills in the driveway, and it would push me to keep practicing too.”
Starting at such an old age gave the Abdulgader twins a disadvantage on the court, but what they lacked in experience they made up for in communication.
“When two people play together for a long time, they’re going to build chemistry,” Tariq said. “Me and Malik had that from the beginning. As soon as we started playing basketball together, we were already synched up. I could always tell where he was going to be and what he was going to do, and vice versa. We didn’t have to build that connection on the court, we came into the game with it.”
The brothers’ bond has grown even stronger during their time at Piedmont, serving as one another’s support, both on and off the court.
“Malik’s that one person in my life who always keeps me in check,” Tariq said. “He’s somebody who I can always go to talk to if there’s something on my mind.”
Their support system was tested this season when Tariq fractured his ankle during practice the day before a game. While he healed, he couldn’t play for the Lions and the brothers’ on-court connection was put on pause.
“I could see how frustrated he was because of how much he loves to play,” Malik said. “Seeing him come out onto the court after being out for so long – seeing him smiling during that game – that was a really proud moment for me.”
Soon, Tariq and Malik will be parting ways for the first time in 20 years. Tariq will be staying at Piedmont to finish his degree in accounting, while Malik transfers to Georgia Tech to complete his degrees in engineering and math.
“We’ve always been around for each other,” Malik said. “It’ll be weird not having someone there to talk to all the time. We’ll keep in touch though, and I’ll come to visit his games.”
As Tariq continues playing basketball throughout his final year at Piedmont, Malik will be finding his place within the athletic department at Georgia Tech.
“I’m not sure if I’ll play for Georgia Tech, but I definitely don’t want to become uninvolved in sports,” Malik said. “I want to get involved with their basketball team or football team, even if it’s on the management side.”
As the twins prepare to part ways, they continue to leave their mark on Piedmont College. Despite Tariq’s injury, the pair managed to bring in a total of 34 points for the Lions this season, helping steer the team towards their record of 15-11 and 10-6 in conference play.
One of their closest friends, Zach Obie, has watched the brothers grow since their start at Piedmont three years ago.
“Knowing Malik and Tariq has been a treat,” he said. “Watching them struggle and watching them succeed has really showed me who they are now and who they’re trying to be. Whenever they lose a game, whenever they get a bad grade on a test, they come back twice as hard. They’re hard working, they’re nice, they’re just all around good guys. I think that they’ll do well wherever they go… my checking account is kind of banking on them succeeding.”
The twin titans continue to support each other through the end of their joint college careers, and as summer fast approaches, their bond is stronger than ever.