Jerry Weiss is always ready to help his team get fired up.
Even before tip off.
Weiss is a senior on the Archbishop Ryan High School basketball team and during his team’s introductions before the game, Weiss gets the players warmed up by standing in front of the bench. When each player’s name is called and after they shake hands with the nonstarters, Weiss greets them. Sometimes it’s a special handshake, other times it’s various high fives or even a little dance. It’s something a lot of teams do, and Weiss is happy to be Ryan’s point man.
“This is my first year doing it, it’s fun,” Weiss said. “I like doing it, it’s something fun. It was hard to learn everything, but I got it down. It depends how much they do.”
When the game starts, Weiss is usually on the bench. But as soon as his number is called, he does a lot.
Weiss is one of the first guys off the bench and when he comes out, you can easily pick him out on the floor. He’s the guy doing just about everything.
The Somerton native knows his role on the team. It’s his job to bring instant energy to the floor when his number is called. It might not sound glamorous, but it’s something Ryan needs if it wants to compete in the Catholic League.
“It took a little time adjusting, but I love coming off the bench,” Weiss said. “When I get out there, I have fresh legs, and I’ll work hard. I have to work hard because that’s what my role is. Go out and make things happen.
“I come out and I play point, which helps (starting point guard Ja’Quill Stone), he can go to shooting guard and he doesn’t have to cover the point. It helps everyone. When I’m in there, I have to play smart and give us some energy. That’s what you do when you come off the bench.”
Weiss does more than just add energy.
He also adds leadership and a veteran presence.
That comes from being part of the Ryan program since he was a freshman.
Last year, the Raiders didn’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs, but in his freshman and sophomore campaigns, Ryan experienced a lot of good times. Both years, Ryan made the Catholic League semifinals and earned a trip to the state tournament. His sophomore year was the best during his time at the school. That year, the Raiders advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament.
“It was great, I dressed when we played at the Palestra in the Catholic League playoffs and then we played at Temple during the state playoffs,” Weiss recalled. “That year, we had so many great seniors. We had Chris Palantino and Izaiah (Brockington) and Matiss (Kulackovskis). They were a great team, they were a family.”
Weiss tells the younger Raiders about those experiences and what it feels like to find success. He also tells them what will help them get to the same place.
Less than a month ago, that advice was very much needed.
Ryan lost its first to games on the Catholic League schedule and went into Christmas without a win. But the Raiders have recovered to win four straight to get back in the thick of things in the PCL standings. Among those victories was a 59-57 barnburner over Bishop McDevitt on Friday night. In that one, Weiss saw extended minutes because many Raiders were playing with foul trouble.
“I don’t think we weren’t ready, but we didn’t play great at the start,” Weiss said. “After we lost the second game, we came out and had a great practice. I knew we were going to be OK after that. And since then, we’ve become like a family. It is a lot like when I was a sophomore.”
His coach feels the same way.
“We lost the opener to St. Joe’s Prep, and they did a great job and did some things that worked against us,” Ryan coach Joe Zeglinski said. “We’ve played much better since. I do think they are playing better and playing well together.
“Jerry gives us energy that we need. He’s been around and he’s a great leader.”
Next year, Weiss hopes to continue his athletic career in college, though he’s unsure which sport he’ll be playing. Basketball is his first love, but he’s also an accomplished lacrosse player. He was All-Catholic as a sophomore and is hoping for another strong season this year. It should be little surprise what he wants to study, considering he does so much to help with the chemistry on the basketball team.
“I want to study science, chemistry,” said Weiss, who is ranked in the top 20 percent of his senior class. “I like mixing things and making things. A lot of people are surprised, but I have a good time doing it. I think it’s pretty interesting.”
He’s also hoping the Raiders make things interesting down the stretch.
The Catholic League is as hard as always this year, but with a strong batch of starting players, coupled with unselfish bench players, the Raiders could make some noise come playoff time.
“We’re getting better every practice,” Weiss said. “You can tell in practice how we’re going to play, and we’re playing better because we’re practicing better. Plus, we’re getting closer. I think we can be just as good as we were before.”
He’ll dance to that.