Thomas Scrubb spent decades alongside his younger brother, winning championships and representing their native Canada internationally together, rehabbing from injuries at the same time and also sharing advice about the 7DAYS EuroCup. But that changed for one evening in mid-December as the JL Bourg en Bresse forward faced off against Phil Scrubb.
Bourg's French League game at Limoges CSP was the first time that the two brothers from Vancouver, Canada, played each other in an official game.
"I remember it being a tough game. It wasn’t really fun for us since we lost," said Thomas Scrubb, who collected 9 points, 7 rebounds and 1 assist while Phil ended up with 21 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists in a 74-72 Limoges victory. "Phil played well and they got out to a big lead, but we fought our way back, but just didn't finish in the end."
"This was the first time we would play each other in a real game."
Thomas said he didn’t talk too much to Phil about the game ahead of time.
"It was mostly our friends and family who were getting really excited about the game. This was the first time we would play each other in a real game which was fun for a lot of people," he remembered.
Thomas and his brother, who is 14 months younger than him, have been through a lot together. The Bourg forward said the two really didn’t play much basketball against one another when they were younger.
"My brother and I weren't too competitive growing up. I think the few times we would play, it would end in a fight, so we just decided it was more fun to play together on the same team against our parents or friends whenever we could," said Scrubb, whose parents both played basketball at university.
The brothers left the west coast of Canada to attend Carleton University in Ottawa, the capital of the country in the province of Ontario. Thomas sat out a year to spend five seasons together with Phil and they helped turn Carleton into a powerhouse in Canadian college basketball. They won five consecutive CIS national titles, going 145-5 over that half-decade.
"It was great to have that success alongside my brother," Scrubb said. "I think we grew so much as players and people during the five years at Carleton. It definitely had a big impact on our life and prepared us for our career in Europe."
But after spending their entire childhood and college years together, the brothers both departed for Europe and would split up for the first time: Thomas heading to Finland to play for Joensuun Katana while Phil started in Greece with AEK Athens and finished the season with Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt in Germany.
"It was different being apart. I still feel like we had a connection in that we were both experiencing something new for the first time and were able to help each other out with that," Scrubb said.
Both of the brothers were in Germany for their second seasons in 2016-17 - Phil still at Frankfurt and Thomas at Giessen. The younger sibling got hurt before the season and missed the entire campaign, including the Frankfurt vs Giessen contest in November.
"It was a tough year for him in that he had to miss the whole season due to injury. I was more concerned about him getting back to full health," the older brother said.
The two cities are about 70 kilometers apart and there was one visit early in the season before Phil headed back to Canada for surgery and rehab. Thomas followed in January 2017 as he also went home for ankle surgery that cost him the rest of the season. Phil returned to Germany the next season and led the league in scoring to land a spot with Zenit St Petersburg in the EuroCup in 2018-19. Thomas headed to Italy for a season each with Avellino and Varese, with which he reached the FIBA Europe Cup final and semifinals, respectively.
"Even though the FIBA Europe Cup is a lower level compared to the EuroCup, I feel like any European competition helps you adapt to play two games a week as well as the mental aspect of travel and focusing on two competitions at the same time," Scrubb said.
When the summer of 2019 came, both Scrubbs were selected to play for Canada at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China, where Canada failed to advance from its group with Australia and Lithuania.
"It's always an honor to represent your country. Even though we didn’t have too much success at the World Cup, it was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. Just to be on such a big stage amongst some of the best players in the world is something I will always remember," said Scrubb.
He moved to Strasbourg in France for 2019-20 and then when the offer with Bourg came up, Thomas said his brother thought he should give the EuroCup a chance.
"I feel like every team is competitive and the level of basketball is really high."
"My brother enjoyed playing in the EuroCup and told me that it was a good competition. I've really enjoyed it as well so far. I feel like every team is competitive and the level of basketball is really high," said Scrubb, who is averaging 8.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.6 steals thus far.
Despite making its international debut, Bourg ended up placing third in Group A in the regular season with a 6-4 mark and won the league GMs' choice for the surprise of the season.
Scrubb went through a bout of mononucleosis and missed three games in the Top 16, all of which ended in losses.
"I think the team played well while I was out. We lost three tough games to some very good teams so even with a full roster it would have been hard," he said.
Scrubb and the team now just want to close the season with two wins.
"After being praised as the most surprising team, it won’t be a good look to finish 0-6 in the Top 16,” he said.
Phil Scrubb’s Zenit team finished 2-4 in the Top 16 in 2018-19. Maybe Thomas Scrubb has asked him how to finish strong?