Perhaps you've seen the commercial: Two young friends pull off the side of the highway to enjoy a meal, not realizing they are surrounded by buffalos. One of the animals waltzes up to the vehicle and sends his horns through the driver’s side window to get their attention. In a panic, one of the friends sings the State Farm Insurance jingle, and like a good neighbor their insurance agent shows up to save the day.
The commercial would not have been as effective if the insurance company had cast siblings Marcus and Emily Lytle in the lead roles. It would have lacked the frantic energy needed to convince viewers. Why? “They are just so laid back,” says Quinton Lytle, the father of the two Evangelical Christian School basketball players.
As an example, Quinton tells about when he was driving Marcus and Emily home after practice and a doe ran onto the road and hit the driver's side of the vehicle. “It caught me off guard,” says Quinton “but Marcus didn’t say a word. Probably didn’t lift his head from his phone. Finally, he asked me why I yelled like that.”
Emily is also a cool customer. “Me and Marcus are kind of laid back,” she says. “We’re never super hyper.”
“Most of our kids take after me,” says Quinton. “My wife is the sweetest person, but she has a quicker temper than I do. During games, my wife will scream out at the (referee) long before I do. But I’m stubborn and they get that from me.”
Quinton, a former professional basketball player, did not want them to pick up the sport. “I decided that I would not introduce any of my kids to the game,” he says. “I was fearful they would grow to hate me for pushing them too hard.” His children loved basketball anyway. In fact, Quinton and his wife Carla have eight children, and they all have an appreciation for the game. Quinton has coached four of them, including Emily. He is currently the ECS assistant coach for the girls’ varsity team.
While Quinton is on the bench, Marcus is in the stands cheering for Emily. “It’s just great to get to watch your sister play,” says Marcus. And when Marcus is playing, Emily reciprocates. “I just love to watch him play,” she says. “I can learn a lot from him.”
Marcus and Emily are a year apart. He’s a senior and she’s a junior. Unlike a lot of siblings, they actually like one another. “My children have never had a fight with each other,” Quinton says. “It’s hard to remember them even raising their voice to one another.”
Marcus believes the fact they were home schooled for the majority of their educational process played a large role in their tight bond.
“(Traditional) school, you come to school and you kind of get separated,” Marcus explains. “ You have groups. But home-schooling, you are on the same kind of schedule, you go to the same gym, work out for three hours, come home, and that’s really a big part of the strengthening of the relationship.”
The decision to enter the private school ranks after years of home schooling was mainly due to a formula that had worked in the past. Nicole, big sister to Marcus and Emily, also attended ECS in high school. “She went on to (Middle Tennessee State University),” says Marcus. “And college was a lot easier (academic wise) for her after being here.”
The home school to private school transition was an adjustment period for Marcus and Emily. “I’ve gotten used to it now, but the biggest difference is being at a school desk for seven hours,” explains Marcus. “I was used to just waking up whenever I wanted to wake up, do my school, go to the gym, comeback, do my school. It definitely changes how many hours you can put in at the gym unless you are going to stay up late.”
Basketball, however, has offered few bumps on the road. Marcus and Emily lead their respective teams in scoring. But while their circumstances and personalities are similar, their style of play is very different.
“She can shoot better than I can,” says Marcus. “She’s a real good shooter.”
“I’m not as strong in the paint”,” claims Emily. “I lean more toward play on the outside. He plays inside, plays point, plays the guard. My brother is a better all-around player.”
Yet it’s the 6-foot-tall Emily who is getting more attention from college coaches. “Belmont, MTSU, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss,” she names off a few interested programs (coaches like tall guards). Because she’s an uncommitted junior, the number of pursuers will likely continue to grow.
Marcus, an undecided 6' 3” senior, is also getting offers, but from division II programs. He’s hoping a legitimate division I offer will come his way.
“Marcus just decided last year he wanted to play basketball in college,” says his dad. “His toughest hurdle to getting exposure is his unselfish play. He’s such a good teammate. But sometimes those college coaches want to see a person who can score a bunch of points. And if (Marcus) decided to do that, he could.”
The high school season is still young. There’s still time for a division I program to come calling. But if one doesn’t, Marcus says he won’t panic. Nor will he sing the State Farm jingle.
You can follow Jamie Griffin on twitter @flyerpreps