Hoops’ Royal Sisters
Junior, Freshman EMU Standouts
Posted: January 4, 2013
HARRISONBURG – Steph and Jess Rheinheimer are sometimes so alike that observers swear they must be twins, not realizing that Steph is actually 2 years older. Like when Steph throws the ball to Jess under the basket in such a perfectly timed manner that teammates refer to it as “sister-to-sister telepathy.”
Other times, though, people ask if the Eastern Mennonite University basketball players are sisters at all, and there’s evidence for that, too. For instance, Jess wants to be a nurse, while Steph admittedly gets “freaked out” by anything related to blood, needles or hospitals.
During a game in November, Steph got elbowed in the head, and the subsequent bleeding was so traumatic that she became delusional.
“She thought blood was coming out of her eye, and she was, like, freaking out,” Karen Rheinheimer said. “I was like, ‘Steph, I don’t think that’s possible.’”
Steph also hates mayonnaise and cream cheese – or, as her teammates put it, “all white spreadables.” Jess will eat it all.
Their production for the Royals (6-4 overall, 2-1 in the ODAC), though, is more sisterly.
Steph, a junior, and Jess, a freshman, are averaging nearly identical scoring numbers. Steph, a third-team All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference player last season, is averaging 10.2 points per game (second on the team) in 25.8 minutes, and is an every-game starter; Jess, coming off the bench, is averaging 8.9 points per contest in 20.2 minutes. The only higher scorer than the Rheinheimers is junior Bianca Ygarza, a returning first-team all-conference player who’s scoring 11.6 points per game.
But while the Rheinheimers’ scoring stats are similar, their roles make them more distinct. Steph, a 5-foot-8 guard, is more apt to shoot the 3, and she’s making 37.5 percent of them while shooting nearly seven per game. Jess, a 5-10 forward, is more likely to play in the post, though she’s also a capable shooter, attempting fewer than 2 3s per game but making 45.5 percent of them.
So, who’s better? Right now, it’s probably the older Steph, who’s clearly benefited from experience. In addition to scoring a bit more, she’s averaging more assists (1.7 per game to Jess’ 1.1), fewer turnovers (0.6 to 1.9) and even more blocked shots (0.5 to 0.3) despite Jess’ size advantage.
On the other hand, Jess is more versatile – she can play guard or forward, which is part of what makes her such a useful reserve – while Steph is strictly a shooting guard.
“She [Jess] does so many things well, that one way or another, she’s going to get on the floor with us,” EMU coach Kevin Griffin said. “She can play pretty much all the positions besides point guard. She can play in the post, she can play on the perimeter. She’s just really skilled.”
Their sisterly hoops chemistry developed from a young age, when they frequented the driveway basket at their childhood home in Manheim, Pa.
Jess was good enough to practice with her older sisters’ teams from the third grade through middle school, including a couple teams that their mother coached. (Karen Rheinheimer formerly played basketball in high school.) When Steph and Jess played in high school together for two years at Lancaster Mennonite School – a productive recruiting ground for many of EMU’s sports teams – Steph was unquestionably the star, but Jess was a valuable part of the supporting cast.
Just as she now is at EMU.
But while their on-court chemistry is apparent, they’re not inseparable off the court. Sure, they get along fine – both insisted that they don’t have any pet peeves of the other that are sometimes common to siblings – but Steph said they rarely see each other on campus when basketball’s out of season.
That’s when the differences sprout up again. Jess is more outgoing around strangers, but Steph is more laid-back. And while Jess is an aspiring nurse, Steph is a health and physical education major hoping to be a P.E. teacher – where, of course, there’s less blood involved.
“I just have never liked that stuff,” Steph said.
But in the way they approach basketball, they’re harder to tell apart.
“The core values for both of them, and their morals, everything about them is just very, very similar – work ethic, their effort – all of that is identical,” Griffin said.