MASON, Ohio -- Mason sophomore guard Sammie Puisis was discussing her practice habits late last week in a hallway outside the gymnasium when Mason football coach Brian Castner walked by and happened to eavesdrop on a conversation about basketball shooting.
“She is way better than Eddie,” Castner joked. “I put my money on her any day.”
That’s absolutely no offense to Sammie's brother, Mason senior guard Eddie Puisis. In fact, anyone who knows the Puisis family knows the siblings support each other at the boys’ and girls’ games.
Basketball is simply fun. It’s also a way of life. Still, there are curious fans who wonder who has the better shot.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this,” said Eddie, a 6-foot-2 guard who has not committed to a college program. “She has the consistent long-range ball. She is pretty good.”
The Puisis siblings get asked frequently about their basketball ability. The siblings are used to the spotlight, which includes interviews from the student media at the school.
After all, both have led the Greater Miami Conference in scoring average this season. The Mason girls’ basketball has been nationally ranked this season while the boys’ team is in contention for a third consecutive GMC title.
Sammie politely explained how their epic games of “P-I-G” often have no end in sight. Eddie, 17, and Sammie, 16, will often work in the gym together in the summer or simply practice on a Sunday afternoon during the season. They welcome the unique opportunity to be siblings and share the basketball stage.
The conversations at home revolve around basketball. They send each other motivational messages. They have friendly bragging rights.
Their parents, Ed and Kelly, played basketball in college. The same passion for the game has been passed down to Sammie and Eddie -- two of their six children.
“Having all the support from all my family members is really big,” Sammie said. “I love it. I can’t imagine not playing basketball.”
Sammie, who is 6-2, is one of the nation’s top-rated players in the 2019 class with several significant scholarship offers. The University of Connecticut is interested. She will have her pick of a college program when the time is right.
“Everybody needs to kind of remember that she is a sophomore,” Mason girls’ basketball coach Rob Matula said.
“I think sometimes people look at her because of her physical attributes and her ability on the basketball court, and they kind of forget that. You are dealing with a sophomore in high school who is under a microscope.”
Sammie helped to lead Mason to the Division I state final as a freshman. This season, she averages 17.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.8 steals, 2.0 assists and shoots better than 53 percent from beyond the three-point line for the Comets (14-1).
“She is a relatively humble kid, and she is trying to figure it all out right now,” Matula said. “I think once she continues to mature -- she will take off. She has come a long way from last year to this year. Goodness gracious if she makes the strides in the next two years…”
Matula’s voice trailed off.
“I am always motivating myself to be the best,” Sammie said.
But, she also receives plenty of motivation from her family including Eddie who has given her a ride to the gym on multiple occasions. They evaluate game film together as a family. Kelly started to record their exercises in a book during the fifth or sixth grade.
“We’re probably closer than what most siblings are,” Eddie said. “We’ll hang out on the weekends. We’ll pretty much go anywhere together. We’ll go out to eat and hang out and talk. Some families aren’t as close as we are. They don’t realize what they say to her she will end up saying to me later.”
Ed Puisis has noticed the bond between his two basketball standouts. He thoroughly enjoys watching at least four games a week (two boys and two girls games).
Eddie and Sammie are excellent students who also understand the importance of academics. But, their camaraderie is also special.
“These two will be in a room and talk about everything,” Ed said. “From what’s going at school to what’s going on with their friends. It’s amazing how close they’ve become.”
The two will practice hundreds of shots in the summer together at the community center. They lift weights at their home. Ed reminds them to be unselfish on the court but to take advantage of opportunities academically and athletically.
A former guard at Lewis University, Ed still likes to play a game of “H-O-R-S-E” or “P-I-G.” He can still make 96 of 100 shots -- much to the amazement of Eddie.
But, his kids use a strategy he once used on Kelly when they were dating. During the game of "P-I-G'", the shooting distance from the basket continually grows. Ed knows this. Sammie and Eddie use age to their advantage.
“He was a great shooter,” Eddie said. “He still claims he’s better than me.”
Eddie, who is over a 4.0 grade-point average, is considering some college programs in the south at the moment. He averages 18.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists for the Comets. A left-handed shooter, he is adept at shooting and driving. He shoots a conference-best 87.5 percent from the free-throw line.
Eddie and senior forward Matt King, an Ohio Dominican signee, are among the leaders on a talented boys’ team with strong expectations during their senior seasons.
“The leadership -- you can take away the basketball skills,” Mason boys’ coach Greg Richards said. “Between him and Matt, it’s just phenomenal. They know what to do. I don’t need to say it. And they are class, the way they do it too. Both him and Matt are great students and great leaders. It’s going to be tough to see them leave.”
Mason athletic director Scott Stemple said he’s barely hears from Eddie and Sammie off the court, but you couldn’t ask for better teammates on the respective teams.
“They have great competitive drive -- both of them,” Stemple said. “They just both have outstanding skills. They are just great team players. They are just great team people in their attitude. That complements the rest of the team I think as well. They can be the go-to people. They are also unselfish in their own way as well. I think that’s what makes them special.”