Neff twins spell double trouble for North Medford
For those outside the North Medford community, it’s OK if you find yourself doing a double-take — Trey and Ty Neff are pretty used to it by now.
No, you didn’t just see a Black Tornado basketball player race down the court only to kick the ball back to himself for a deep 3-pointer in some mind-rattling scenario that leaves you questioning your eyesight.
While it may be easy to think that in the blur that is the Neff twins as they flow seamlessly on the floor and make play after play against the opposition, there are differences in the 17-year-old twins.
“As much as we do look alike, we’re actually fraternal,” notes Trey, who is two inches taller and one minute older than Ty. “A lot of people think we’re identical by the way we look, but we actually are fraternal.”
The similarities between the close-knit seniors, though, cannot be denied — nor can their impact on and off the court for North Medford.
“They are just truly a special pair of kids,” says Black Tornado head coach Scott Plankenhorn. “Brothers and twins that are amazing to be around.
“They’ve brought something great to the program and we’re having a good season with them and we’re just hoping to push through even more as they continue to strive for what they want.”
And despite those innocent looking faces, mark my words, what the Neff twins want to do is simply destroy whoever squares off against them on the basketball court.
And the results certainly bear that out.
The 6-foot-2 Trey entered Saturday’s contest against Grants Pass as the No. 2 scorer in the Southwest Conference at 18.5 points per game. A featured piece of the Black Tornado puzzle for a second straight season, Neff led North with 17 points per game during the spring and is also contributing 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 steals per outing this winter.
Ty, at 6-foot, has had to wait his turn a little more, but after being given the keys to the Tornado’s attack at point guard this season, he’s supplying 9.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
“They definitely have similar games and similar attack modes,” says Plankenhorn. “Obviously Trey this year is shooting a little bit better percentage, but Ty has the ability to shoot it and space the floor and drive it, too. They’re both super-competitive, which makes it be the over-the-top part. Not everybody has that highly competitive, I’m going to win it at all costs mentality, and those two boys both have that.”
They also have a deep appreciation for having the chance of not only finishing off their prep careers together, but in grand fashion as the No. 4 team in the state in the most recent Class 6A boys basketball coaches poll.
“It’s been super cool just where we’ve come from to this season,” Trey says, “and to see how well we’re doing, it’s just awesome.”
Adds Ty: “Growing up with him and playing with him now and all the memories and the experiences we share playing basketball together, it’s just really cool.”
For Plankenhorn, it’s also been a pleasure to watch each carve out critical roles for what is a very balanced and unified Black Tornado bunch.
“This year they’re giving me everything I expected and we needed from them to win basketball games,” the coach says. “Obviously, Trey does the majority of the scoring and shooting for the team and plays really good defense and rebounds, but Ty has really stepped into that point guard role and is doing a pretty good job for a kid that hasn’t been a true point guard all his life.”
The twins grew up shadowing each other at home and in the field of play, forgoing baseball and football pursuits for basketball as they neared the high school level.
“In football or baseball, you kind of stand around in between plays and stuff like that,” Trey says, echoing his brother’s sentiments, “and I kind of like the high-intensity, always moving back-and-forth action you get in basketball.”
A mirror-image tandem through their younger days, it was Trey who first got the call at the varsity level as a sophomore while Ty found himself on the junior varsity squad. It was one of the few times they’ve ever been separated in sports.
“It was what needed to happen,” Ty says. “I was still trying to develop so playing on JV got me a chance to better myself and my game so I could be ready for varsity last year and this year.”
“At the beginning it was kind of different,” he adds, “but as time went on we got kind of used to it. It wasn’t like I wasn’t seeing him at all or anything, I still saw him at practice everyday. But it definitely helped me grow and branch off for myself and learn my role.”
As Trey developed into one of North’s primary scoring options in the spring, Ty got his feet wet as the backup point guard to senior Landon Ellis and all the while had his brother in his ear, pushing him to keep his head up and be ready for when his number was called.
Conversely, Ty got an opportunity to really sit back and appreciate his brother in a new way.
“Trey’s done great,” Ty says. “He’s been a great scorer and a great 3-point shooter and he’s really helped the program win games. It’s been awesome to see him perform well and just being that go-to guy that if we need a bucket, we can just give it to him and he can just get it done.”
Efficient in all that he does, Trey is shooting 48% from the field (97-for-201), 36% from 3-point range (37-for-104) and 85% from the foul line (28-for-33).
“Trey is one of the best shooters we’ve had come through the program,” Plankenhorn says. “He’s flirting with that 50-40-90 again this year, it’s awfully close. To be able to shoot 50% from the field, 40% from 3 and 90% from the free-throw line, it’s rare air.”
For his part, Trey is just happy to be able to contribute to his team’s success.
“I’m just glad that I’ve been able to go out there and compete at a high level and help my team overall,” he says. “Winning games by how much we have lately is super cool, and to be a part of that is just awesome.”
While both players have been spark plugs on the defensive end — where North truly shines — Ty has traded in the joys of being a leading scorer to the challenge of being a pivotal playmaker.
“I think he can do a little bit of everything,” Trey says of his brother, “but his defense has definitely helped us a lot this year and with his playmaking ability as the point guard, he’s definitely doing a good job there to get us going.”
When asked about how much fun it would be to get up as many shots in a game as Trey, the “younger” twin only laughs. The duo turns 18 on March 3.
“I know that’s not going to happen most likely and I’m OK with that,” Ty says. “I’ll hit the open shots if I need to. If I’m on, I’ll get the opportunities, I’m not worried about it.”
“We’re like one big family out there; we just want everyone to succeed,” he adds. “If it’s someone’s moment, we’ll give them that chance to make the most of that moment.”
In essence, that communal approach built on such a long-standing history between North’s players — be it the twins or close pal Bryce Dyer and on down the roster — is as important as any factor for the Black Tornado.
“We all have the same vision and that’s just to play together and play as hard as we can,” Trey says. “It’s been working so we’re just going to keep it up.”
Adds Ty: “With all the experience we have playing together, we kind of know what we’re going to do without saying anything. That just really helps. We’ve grown up with Bryce forever and all our group of guys so that kind of gives us an advantage because we’re all really good friends.”
Plankenhorn says the twins deserve praise for helping foster that family spirit.
“They’re really all-in for the team and the program,” the coach says. “It’s amazing what they bring even outside of the game with all the other stuff, wanting to keep the team together and building camaraderie and all those kinds of things.”
As close as they can be — Trey and Ty each were effusive in how much they relished having the other around in school, at home and on the court — that doesn’t mean there can’t be a hiccup every now and then.
Heck, who hasn’t had a sibling get on their nerves every once in a while, a factor that can only be exacerbated in one-on-one competitions.
“They both have their little heated situations and sometimes when one makes a play against the other it definitely gets even more heated,” Plankenhorn says. “They’re competitive and they don’t like to lose at anything. Even if it’s just a shooting drill, sometimes they’ll get competitive.
“They’re not super vocal all the time but you can see it and you just know. Some kids can be quiet and you just don’t know if they’re really competitive or not but these two boys, no matter what it is, they’re going to compete at it.”
At the end of the day, though, it’s all about supporting one another for the twins.
“We’ve just always been really close since a very young age,” Trey says, who holds a slight edge over his brother with a 4.0 GPA after Ty received his lone B in chemistry. “We’ve done everything together. We’re in all the same classes at school and we’ve been great friends and great brothers. It’s just nice always having a helping hand.”
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