Freshman athlete faces expectations due to brother’s reputation

November 27, 2018 — by Christine Zhang

“Hey, look, it’s Hanlin’s little brother!”

Freshman Weilin Sun, then a sixth-grader, turned around as he heard someone mention his elder brother, senior Hanlin Sun, who was then a freshman. An eighth-grade member of the Redwood Middle School basketball team was looking at Weilin, and Weilin gave a half-hearted wave as he sighed and returned to his dribbling.

Weilin began playing basketball in kindergarten, following Hanlin into the sport. When he started on the Redwood team in sixth grade, he realized that the other players recognized him because of Hanlin.

“A lot of people knew him,” Weilin said. “Once he left for high school, people called me Hanlin’s little brother.”

In addition to participating on school teams, Weilin plays in AAU, a competitive basketball organization that plays eight to 10 tournaments in a season. He estimates he plays 10 or more hours per week with his school and club practices.

Hanlin, on the other hand, plays exclusively on the school team when basketball is in season. The varsity team has practices or games six days a week, with each practice lasting around three hours.

Hanlin has also played the sport since kindergarten. He was a member of AAU teams in his middle school years as well, but he no longer participates in them.

Hanlin said that he is not used to practicing in the same place as his brother.

“It’s kind of crazy because he’s always been at a different school than me due to our age difference,” Hanlin said. “I haven’t been at the same school as him since elementary school, so seeing him [during] JV practices is trippy sometimes.”

Because of Hanlin’s reputation as an exceptional basketball player, Weilin said that he needed to prove his own worth to the other members of the team rather than have his brother’s achievements define him.

“When I was in middle school I didn’t appreciate being called my brother’s brother,” Weilin said. “I was like ‘I have a name,’ but then I thought I have to prove that I have my own name.”

Sophomore Isaac Sun, a fellow member of the basketball team who is close to Weilin and has interacted with Hanlin, acknowledged the pressure on Weilin.

“Hanlin's a really popular person outside of basketball, so Weilin already has that reputation being known as his younger brother,” Isaac said. “Weilin just has really big shoes to fill.”

Hanlin does not view his reputation as a detriment to Weilin’s status on the team, instead believing that it should “fuel him to do better and motivate to play harder.”

The two brothers do not usually practice together. Weilin said that they played together when they were younger, but they now each practice with their own teams. Occasionally, Hanlin watches Weilin’s games and tells him where he needs to improve.

Isaac said that Weilin and Hanlin have different roles and styles when playing basketball, which can be unfair when others compare them.

“It's tough knowing that others expect Weilin to match Hanlin when they don't even play the same way,” Isaac said. “Still, Weilin is really impressive for dealing with it so well.”

Weilin is 5’8” and plays small forward, and Hanlin stands at 5’11” and plays point guard. Although they both enjoy playing defense, Weilin said that he likes to drive to the basket while Hanlin is a better defender and enjoys leading and managing the team.

Despite the expectations that Weilin faces, the brothers have a close relationship.

“There’s not really tension between us,” Weilin said. “I know my brother’s a lot better than me, so I kind of respect him for that.”

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