There is no identity crisis when it comes to Angel and Jose Rivera, identical twins with complementary skills who have created a boys basketball buzz at Bay Shore. They may look alike, but they revel in their differences.
The Riveras, both 6-2, 150-pound starters for one of the preseason favorites in Suffolk II, often read each other’s minds on the court, making passes to allow the other to finish with a layup or open three-pointer. But off the court, they don’t finish each other’s sentences. Rather, they interrupt at every opportunity, laughing, contradicting and playing a game of verbal one-upmanship that bears out the adage, “You only tease the ones you love.”
Ask them about their strengths and Jose, a shooting guard, jumps into the conversation before Angel, a small forward, can get a word in. “First of all, I shoot way better on threes. He may get me on mid-range. He has a little better left hand. Our games aren’t that similar. He dribbles more and tries to get himself open. Oh, and I pass way more than he does and I’m a better defender.”
Your turn, Angel. “I’ll give him the defensive part. He guards the best offensive player on the other team every single time. As far as offense, we have different games. He scores if we pass it to him. I dribble a lot and I create much better.”
Angel averaged 16 points, four rebounds and four assists last season for the Marauders, who went 15-5 and lost to eventual Suffolk Class AA champion Half Hollow Hills West, 56-51, in a quarterfinal playoff game. Jose averaged 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.
They both are long and lean with short black hair and are indistinguishable except for Angel’s wispy goatee. He may shave it and Jose may grow one. Or one may let his hair grow a little longer, as was the case last season. They aren’t baseball fans, but like to wear baseball hats — from different teams, of course.
Jose wears jersey number 4; Angel is number 5. They are that close and that different. “I know where he’s at. He doesn’t know where I’m at,” Jose said, drawing a laugh from Angel and Bay Shore second-year coach C.J. Leary. “He gets plenty of assists from me. I get zero assists from him.”
Leary agreed with the twins’ self-scouting reports. “Angel is definitely the more refined offensive player. He handles it a little better, is a little better creator, shoots it better off the dribble or coming off screens,” Leary said. “Jose is a spot-up shooter who fills up the stat sheet playing in transition. And he’s a nightmare defensively. He’s probably the best on-ball defender in our league.”
Both players are extremely active. “I talk to people after a game and the first words out of their mouths are, ‘Boy, those twins are all over the place,’ ’’ Leary said. “They’re diving on the floor. They’re saving the ball from the front row by jumping over people.”
The Riveras are good students with low-90s averages, good sports and good teammates. “They’re phenomenal kids. They’re so nice, it’s almost obnoxious,” Leary said with a sly grin. “Our whole team is that way. But when we’re between the lines, I can’t have a bunch of happy, smiling kids. Some of them need a poke once in a while to get them going.”
Despite a pronounced love for basketball — “It was the only sport we were good at when we were young, and we tried them all,” Jose said — the game clearly does not define the twins. “They’re already looking well beyond basketball,” Leary said. “They have a wide range of interests. They both have said to me, separately, that if it was the perfect situation at the perfect school that has what they want to study, then they’d play basketball. But they’re not going to let basketball decide where they’ll go.”
Not surprisingly, they are insistent about going their separate ways next year. “I definitely don’t want to go to the same college as him,” Jose said as Angel nodded in agreement. “Splitting up means I don’t have to be compared to him. I won’t have to listen to people saying, ‘Am I seeing double?’ And all those other phrases. If we go to separate colleges, it would be different and better for me.”
To which Angel added, “We hear the same jokes in the hallway. I’m always being compared to him. Going to college without him means I’ll get to be my own person.”
Jose is considering colleges in California. Angel prefers Florida. Jose wants to study either screenwriting or criminology. Angel is leaning toward business or screenwriting.
Wait, both are interested in screenwriting? They actually agree on something? Sort of.
“Randomly, I started watching a lot of movies and got interested in film,” Jose said. “Then he just hopped on the bandwagon and said, ‘I want to do it, too,’ just because I said I wanted to do it. First he wanted to be a director and now he says he might want to be a screenwriter, copying me.”
Angel’s retort? “I can’t even say anything back. It’s true.”
Then the brothers shared a laugh before going out and sharing the ball in a one-sided Bay Shore victory to open a season they hope provides a Hollywood ending. They can fight over who writes the script.