As Jayla and Jayda Ruffus-Milner ’18 watch the waning seconds of the Varsity Football game at Homecoming, it’s easy to see how much the twins enjoy sports. While their other friends are talking or texting, both twins’ eyes are glued to the game, even if the outcome is all but set.
After all the work the fraternal twins have put in to get this far, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows the 5-foot 10-inch forwards.
Before playing basketball, both girls were heavily involved in the performing arts. Their mother Laquette Ruffus-Milner encouraged Jayla and Jayda to do things like dance and theatre. However, the hardwood at their local YMCA showed them a different path.
“We were doing rehearsals for our mom’s play and she was doing them at a rec center. So after rehearsal, we just started to pick up a ball and do layups and stuff like that,” Jayda said. “It was just for fun. Then one of the coaches at the rec center said ‘Oh you should come play,’ and the rest is history.”
Still, elements of Jayla and Jayda’s experience in performing arts are present when they play basketball. Laquette, along with other team moms, formed the ‘Parent Hype Squad,’ which dances at halftimes and other breaks in play at the Wolverines’ home games. Their past experience in dance in relation to basketball is evident: teammates and coaches have described both players as having fantastic footwork and being very ‘acrobatic.’
Both twins had immediate success in their new sport; coaches continued to recruit both of them to prospective high school programs, and the girls dominated the recreational and club leagues that they came to Harvard-Westlake, the girls had the challenge of balancing their schoolwork, friends and their skills on the court.
“Sometimes you do get distracted from other things and you forget what your main goal is: to be successful.” Jayla said. “When we are at school, we try to limit the time we have hanging out with our friends. We do homework, and when we finish, it’s off to the gym to shoot around”.
So far, Jayla and Jayda have followed different paths in their respective high school basketball careers. Jayla has immediately become a force on the team as a power forward who can step out and hit outside shots but also mix it up in the paint and play gritty defense. Jayda, a small forward, has a relentless motor and brings a ton of energy to the Wolverines offense.
“A main strength of Jayla on the court would be her offensive and defensive rebounding, as well as her ability to finish at the rim,” Ashlee Wong ’18 said. “Jayda is very aggressive on offense and attacks the rim and is also aggressive defensively. They both know their jobs and they have a significant presence on the court and off the court, where I know they can make every member of the team laugh.”
Jayda has been hampered by injuries throughout her career. After tearing her ACL last year, she worked herself all the way back from the season ending injury has been hobbled in the preseason by an ankle injury on the same leg. Still, her coaches know that as soon as she enters the court, Jayda will be able to bring a spark to the Wolverines with her physicality.
“Jayda is very physical,” Head Coach Melissa Hearlihy said.”Unfortunately she has been out all fall with an ankle injury on the same leg that she tore her ACL on. She’s been off for almost two years, but has played at the end of last year and this summer. As a result of that, her development still has “ways to go, but the minute Jayda steps on the court, it’ll be a huge boost, because she is just so strong.”
Even with this injury gap, Jayda has scored a total of 92 points in 29 varsity games played. Jayla, having played her full freshman and sophomore years, has scored a total of 559 points in 42 games.
As sophomores, both twins are still learning the ropes of the upper school while keeping up their skills on the court. Regardless, their teammates seem to think that they have the skills necessary to be successful everywhere.
“One thing they did especially well is take constructive criticism,” former point guard Teeana Cotangco ’15 said,” whether it’s from each other, their teammates, or coach because we expect so much from both of them. I’d imagine that transfers over in the classroom as well”.
With many long days at summer training camps, many hours in the gym and many bumps in the road to get to where they are now, Jayla and Jayda have learned a lot. They’ve learned how to cooperate with themselves and teammates and they’ve developed into legitimate go-to options on the varsity girls’ basketball team. The twins most importantly, through all of this, have found a way to take the character that they’ve built on the court and use it anywhere they need to.
“Like school, you always have to think about decisions,” Jayla said. “In a fast paced game I say to myself: Oh is this the right decision? Should I pass the ball or hold it for another second? You use that in school, in life, in so many situations”.