Ryan and Riley Weiss were just eighth-graders entering a packed Amityville High School gymnasium surrounded by older, more experienced players. But they had each other – and that’s all the twin brother and sister duo needed.
Ryan and Riley played for the Hewlett varsity teams when Amityville boys basketball coach Gordon Thomas invited them to participate in the Alzheimer's Classic three-point contest in 2019. Whether it’s the game itself or the surrounding events, the Alzheimer's Classic brings the best of Long Island basketball together in one play.
And everyone was talking about the Weiss family that day. Ryan won the boys three-point contest and Riley won the girls – both in dominating fashion. Then, the twins squared off in the final to see who left as the day’s overall champion.
"I remember going up to Riley and saying, ‘Are you going to beat your brother,?’" Thomas said. "And she said ‘Heck yes.’ They put on a show. The gym was going crazy."
Riley just barely edged out Ryan in the final. Both remember putting up high scores in the final with Riley winning by one or two shots.
"That was a lot of fun," Riley said. "But I have to brag to him all the time that I beat him."
"That was cool because there were so many people there, kids older than us and kids that were more experienced than us but we were able to shoot the ball well," Ryan said. "She’s always reminded me of that but she can talk. She won."
Although that event may have been the largest crowd the two competed together in, it was far from their first time challenging one another. They would shoot and play 1-on-1 in the backyard and provide each other the perfect training partner. Ryan, always a few inches taller than Riley, wouldn’t take it easy on his sister, which made Riley tougher. And Riley always proved a worthy competitor, improving Ryan’s skills as well.
This didn’t occur without a few intense moments, however.
"We got into a lot of fights, I remember that," Riley said. "But we always made up in the end. It always ended with one of us screaming at the other but I feel like that’s bound to happen with siblings. They were always good games though."
"They always started out OK and ended up in some kind of argument or pushing match or fight or something," said Jeff Weiss, their father. "They are competitive. None of them wanted to give an inch."
Ryan and Riley are both leading their perspective teams as juniors. Ryan, a 6-4 guard after a recent growth spurt, has been on the varsity team since the eighth grade and has gone from a shooter to a strong all-around player with size. Ryan, who scored his 1,000th varsity point Wednesday, is averaging 27.9 points per game, which leads Nassau public school scorers.
Riley, a 5-10 guard, has already done something no other girls basketball player has before. She averaged 40.8 points per game last season, becoming the first girls player to average more than 40 points per game. Riley, who already has many Division-I offers, leads Long Island in scoring this season with 41.1 points per game .
The two have always had each other to train with, but they had another advantage with a coach as a father. Jeff was a 32-year coach at Lawrence Woodmere Academy, a small independent school in Woodmere. He won a Nassau-record 620 games and finished with a 620-180 record before stepping down in 2020 to be able to watch his kids play more.
He loves coaching, but he didn’t want it to come at the expense of missing his children’s prime high school years.
"It’s a dream come true," said Jeff, who is also a member of both the Nassau County High School Athletics Hall of Fame and New York State Basketball Hall of Fame. "I’ve spent my whole adult life coaching the sport I loved at a high level for high school and then I get to watch my kids who are both high-level players play the sport they love. I’ve hit the jackpot."
Jeff and his wife, Andrea, never miss a game. They often have to divide and conquer and watch from different gyms because the Hewlett boys and girls games are often at the same time but at opposite locations.
"I wasn’t going to miss their activities," Jeff said. "It only happens once, so that’s what mattered most."
He still trains his kids on the side and watches film with them. Besides that, Jeff tries to be just another parent.
"It’s always constructive criticism," Riley said. "Sometimes kids don’t want to hear it, but we both know we need that and just having him be there and be at the games and help us and guide us has been really good for us."
Basketball is at the root of nearly everything the Weiss family does. And unless the twins are in the backyard or in a shooting contest, they don’t see one another as competition. Having a twin with similar interests can help one when struggling – although that doesn’t happen often.
"It was always good, and I’m sure she felt it also, if we ever had a bad game or a bad week at practice, we could always turn to each other," Ryan said. "Because sometimes it’s hard to talk to adults, so it’s always good to have someone you can relate to."
Ryan loves to see Riley score 50 point games – which she has done three times this season through Tuesday. Riley loves to see Ryan continue to turn heads of coaches around Long Island.
"Obviously we both have a lot of self-motivation," Riley said. "But I do think seeing him succeed and him seeing me succeed makes us both want to succeed even more."