To much of the Gridley community, Grant Tull and Kennedy Tull are known as standout athletes on their respective basketball teams at Gridley High.
But the fraternal twins’ basketball careers expand much further than the walls of Farmers Hall.
Playing for the Bulldogs, the Tulls have earned All-Northern Section First Team honors while also being part of Butte View League championships. When the high school season ends, the Tulls have traveled across the country, playing basketball as part of AAU teams that are based outside of northern California. It’s a lifestyle that resulted in the two siblings forgoing birthday parties, social events and adopting a life on the road completely centered around basketball.
The two were dedicated to that lifestyle with a goal in mind — earning a full-ride scholarship to play college basketball. Both Grant Tull and Kennedy Tull will be playing for Oregon Tech University, an NAIA program in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
“I’m pretty pleased I was able to get that goal accomplished,” Grant Tull said. “The best part about basketball is that it offered me a free education. I really wanted to get a free education.”
The two will be reuniting with their older sister, Maddyson, who’s in her sophomore year with the Owls.
“All of us knew it would be a pretty unique opportunity for all three siblings to go to the same place,” Grant Tull said. “We’ll be playing at the same place all on the same night so our parents were pretty happy because they only have one place to go.”
Growing up, their lives have always revolved around basketball. Their father is the assistant basketball coach for the Gridley girls basketball team. They both began playing basketball at 5 years old then played competitively at 8 years old.
“We grew up in the Gridley gym,” Kennedy Tull said.
Their godfather is Alex Austin, a former standout basketball player from Gridley who went on to play at Arizona State University.
“They’ve been around high-level basketball their whole lives because of who they were able to train with,” said Jodie Tull, their mother. “They knew it was going to take a lot of commitment to keep training.”
But they had always been pursuing a scholarship to play in college and that meant traveling all over the country for more than half the year. When the Bulldogs’ season ended, Grant Tull played for the Compton Magic, an AAU team in Los Angeles while Kennedy Tull played for the Oakland Soldiers.
Their AAU teams allowed them to travel to Washington D.C., Chicago, Arizona and Texas to play in various tournaments. The purpose was to gain more interest from recruiters and expose themselves to competition outside of the Northern Section.
“They didn’t want to be a big fish in a small sea,” Jodie Tull said.
With their AAU teams, they had to stay disciplined when it came to eating and working out, Jodie Tull said. It resembled a regimen that’s done at the college level.
“We never had to tell them to work out. They did their workouts on their own. They run three miles a day. They lift every day, they shoot every day. They eat right and plan their meals,” Jodie Tull said. “They just grew up with that.”
Dedicating their lives outside of school to basketball meant living a different teenage lifestyle which resulted in the two growing closer, from siblings to essentially best friends.
“Most of their friends didn’t want to train at that level so it definitely separated them. They weren’t getting invited to birthday parties anymore because they couldn’t go,” Jodie Tull said. “Every weekend they’d be at a tournament or training camp. I think it really did help them decide what they wanted to do.
“They go at it crazy at home when they’re not happy with each other but they’re also best friends.”
The AAU season normally ran from April to July. Most weekends, Grant Tull and his father would drive to Los Angeles for a tournament, then head back home Sunday night. That led to finishing homework in the car while using a cell phone flashlight. For tournaments that were farther away, they’d have to finish their homework on a plane, get back home around 2 a.m. then be ready for school to start at 8 a.m.
However, this past summer the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in the Tull’s routine. For once, they had to stay home.
“They lost all that junior summer recruiting period,” Jodie Tull said. “We stayed at our house more than we’ve ever been in our house.”
Kennedy Tull stayed home, working out in their home gym and practicing shooting. Grant Tull, however, went to Utah to live with a family member since Utah had allowed youth sports to take place.
“This is the summer where I actually got to hang out with my friends,” Kennedy Tull said.
In October, the Tulls went and visited the Oregon Tech campus. It was a different kind of tour. Kennedy Tull was able to run drills with her future teammates while Grant Tull was able to shoot hoops with only one other teammate. Masks had to be worn the entire time.
“It sure is difficult working out in a mask especially with the higher elevation in Oregon,” Grant Tull said.
Grant Tull had also toured Menlo College in California, but the school was unable to offer him a scholarship since they weren’t sure how many seniors would return and use another year of eligibility. The basketball season at Menlo College had been canceled.
When both Tulls had an offer from Oregon Tech, they couldn’t turn it down. Now, they said they’re ready to begin playing at the college level.
“I’m grateful to be able to play with girls who enjoy working out as much as I do. I just wanted to help my parents out and get a scholarship,” Kennedy Tull said. “We worked hard for it and now it’s paying off.”