One of the University of South Carolina’s greatest basketball dynasties almost wasn’t. Before Baltimore’s Terry Dozier and Perry Dozier became known as the “Twin Towers” and led their Dunbar High School basketball team in 1985 to its second of three national championships, they spent most of their time on the court gritting their teeth.
The twins, who came from a single parent home, played basketball at the inner-city Cecil Kirk recreational center in Baltimore to be active and stay out of trouble, says Terry. They also grew into notable bowlers, preferring indoor sports to avoid the long, harsh Maryland winters. While Perry notes that basketball came easier to his twin, Terry, a natural athlete, the first seasons were as biting as the raging weather outside.
“We weren’t very good at it, so there was a lot of taunting and teasing,” recalls Terry. Perry, who became interested in playing shortly after Terry did, equally recalls their uphill struggle in the early years.
“We struggled because we were so tall and really, really bad,” Perry says with a laugh. “The kids used to make fun of us, so we really didn’t like it much.” He says that they ignored the jeers, focused on the fundamentals, and learned the sport.
“We buckled down, kept playing and working at it until we grew into the game,” adds Terry. “The rest is history.”
With Terry’s notoriety as a McDonald’s All-American player and their fame as high school national champions, the Dozier twins made five official recruiting visits at universities, including to legendary basketball schools and one school in a state wholly unknown to them — South Carolina.
“We knew nothing about South Carolina,” says Perry. “Absolutely nothing.”
Columbia was the twins’ first official recruiting visit, as a favor to their coach Bob Wade, and a place they chose because of Jim and Don Ball, two local Chick-fil-A franchisees with whom they are still close friends today. Terry recalls the trip being on one of those beautiful, 75 degree, Southern fall weekends when the air is warm and thick with football. The Carolina football team was doing quite well then. They had coach Joe Morrison, Sterling Sharpe, and the “Fire Ant Defense.” They were playing the University of Pittsburgh at home, and it was a nationally ranked game. “We’re riding to the game in a convertible car, and we see these posters that say, ‘We want the Dozier Twins,’” recalls Terry. “We really felt the fans here already had a great appreciation for what we were doing.”
The fans and the atmosphere really spoke deeply to the twins. “We fell in love when we got on this campus,” admits Perry. The twins spent their visit enjoying Five Points, having dinner at the old Peddler Steakhouse, touring the campus, and spending time at the original Roost and Russell House University Union. “It just seemed like a lot of fun to be here,” recalls Terry. “The people were nice, and everyone spoke to you. We knew right away it was the place we wanted to come.”
The twins made the rest of their visits and ended up following their hearts to USC. They played together from 1985-89,
with Terry starting all four years and Perry a reserve for three, due to an injury. The twins each recall great days — from individual, career-high scores to Metro Conference appearances that were huge in the days before the school joined the Southeastern Conference, to painful learning moments, such as one game against Louisville during which the pressure of expectations and performance rocked the team to the core.
Even though more than 25 years have passed since that game ended, Perry still feels the lessons with acute detail. “We were winning that game, and we wound up getting into a huge fight on national TV. We ended up losing a game against a top 10 opponent and the number one team in the Metro Conference. It would have been a signature win against the defending National Champs. I’ll never forget that night,” recalls Perry.
The twins enjoyed many happier moments, traveling and playing together for the Gamecocks, until Perry suffered a career-ending knee injury at the end of his junior year. The torn ligaments and cartilage ended his playing days, but did not dim his zest for the sport. “He still came to the games. He was just in street clothes,” says Terry.
Terry went on to make a career on the court. The older twin by four minutes, Terry graduated from USC and took his dreams — along with his formidable 6-foot, 9-inch natural talent — to the courts of the NBA.
Despite not being drafted, Terry enjoyed a successful, 12-year professional career playing for the Charlotte Hornets and then internationally in Australia, Israel, Japan, Italy, Cyprus, and England. “I would play the season overseas, but home was always Columbia,” says Terry. In 1991, Terry married, Kym, a native of Eastover, and they had three daughters — Kacey, Kelcee, and Terinee.
After retiring from the pros, Terry joined the Gamecocks Athletics Department serving as the Career Development Coordinator for Student-Athletes before he coached the Westwood High School Redhawks basketball team for four years. Today he is a sought-after trainer, mentor, and motivational speaker.
While Perry’s playing career ended with the Gamecocks, the 6-foot, 11-inch graduate already had a Plan B. “I graduated in graphic design and worked for the Lourie family straight out of college,” says Perry.
After working for the Lourie’s retail clothing business for several years, he branched out on his own and opened up a series of high-end retail stores for big and tall men. During those years, he too married and had two daughters and a son, P.J. Today, P.J. is the CEO and co-founder of Ambassador Custom Clothing.
Despite his long history in the clothing business, Perry never drifted too far away from the basketball court. Since 2006, he’s been the head coach of the Spring Valley High School men’s basketball team.
It is not surprising to learn nearly all of the Doziers’ children have dabbled in basketball. That is exactly how their fathers planned it.
“Growing up, we always dreamt of having kids and them being able to play,” says Perry. They knew they could never force their kids to play, so they did everything within their power to have them around the game so much that they would grow to love it as much as their fathers did.
“Whenever we did basketball camps, we always took the kids with us and had them be a part of the camp even if the kids were older,” Perry says with a laugh. At camps, the Dozier kids would demonstrate the moves and drills for campers. Once their children took a shine to the game, the twins’ pre-plotted basketball education program kicked into gear.
“We’d start with teaching them the fundamentals. That’s something Terry does very well,” says Perry. “The fundamentals are the one thing about basketball that never change.”
Two of Terry’s daughters would go on to play for college teams (Kacey, bowling, and Kelcee, basketball), and his youngest is headed in that direction as well. Two of Perry’s children would go on to enjoy the same Gamecock glory their father and uncle did and compete at a level their fathers could have only imagined back in the 1980s.
Perry’s middle daughter, Asia, was a high school standout and four-star prospect. At 3 years older and, at the time, 4 inches taller than her little brother, P.J., Asia played for Spring Valley High School and was named 2008-09 South Carolina Class 4A Player of the Year by The State, won the coveted 2011-12 South Carolina Miss Basketball title, and, like her Uncle Terry, was nominated for McDonald’s All-American honors in 2012.
Asia played for coach Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks from 2012-2016 and was a two-time team captain. She was a member and captain of the squad that reached the Final Four in 2015. During her senior year, Asia spent a lot of time with an underclassman, P.J., who was a freshman on the USC campus and a first-year player on Frank Martin’s men’s basketball squad.
At 6 feet, 6 inches, P.J. Dozier was a naturally gifted athlete, much like his Uncle Terry. His talent was so apparent that he was noticed in national rankings as early as the fifth grade. Coached by his father and uncle throughout recreation leagues and the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) circuit, they often “played him up” against older kids so that P.J. would be at a disadvantage.
Like his sister, P.J. played at Spring Valley High School and was coached by his father, Perry. He also followed in the footsteps of Uncle Terry, playing in the McDonald’s All-American game in 2015.
P.J. declared his intent to play for USC on the same day his father and uncle did 30 years earlier. He played two years for USC and, after an appearance in the Final Four, declared for the NBA draft in 2017. Today, he’s playing a two-way contract for the Oklahoma City Blue, the development team for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Dozier families are more than Gamecocks to the core. They love Columbia. Terry says they chose to put down roots in South Carolina because it is such a fantastic place to raise a family. And that, both men say, has meant their years at Carolina still feel as fresh as that fall weekend when they first visited the city.
They have seen the dramatic changes in the program from gleaming, state-of-the-art facilities to the connectedness of fans, players, and coaches through social media. The campus has literally transformed before their eyes. Yet, they say what makes USC so special has not changed at all: the fans.
“Gamecock fans have long memories,” Terry says with a smile. “They talk about our games like they just happened yesterday.” It is rare for the brothers to not be recognized anywhere they go, so they happily relive the years and pivotal moments on a daily basis with fans they meet all over the state. “People are so nice, and the fans here are awesome,” says Perry.
However, the twins keenly understand that community connectedness to Gamecock athletes can be a double-edged sword. “When people live and die by every moment you play, it’s hard,” says Terry.
“There’s a lot of pressure on college athletes,” adds Perry. “You have the athletics and the academics. You perform on two courts. It’s like having two full-time jobs.”
For Carolina’s Twin Towers, basketball has been a life-long lesson. They credit the game with teaching them about the fundamentals of living a good life, such as discipline, teamwork, problem solving, ethics, and healthy competition.
“When you put on that Gamecock jersey, you’re an ambassador,” says Terry. “You wear it for your family, the athletic program, and the university. It’s the same in life. As you go through your life, you have to know that how you carry yourself represents other people. You represent your family, who you are, where you live.”
The Doziers couldn’t be happier or more honored to be part of the university’s vast fabric in a community that they truly feel is home. “We have no regrets whatsoever that we chose USC,” says Terry.
Perry adds, “I just can’t emphasize enough how good the University of South Carolina has been for my family. I can never thank them enough. I’m a Gamecock for life.”