Sammie Weiss’ high school basketball career can be summed up with one word: unexpected. When the 16-year-old was inserted into the starting lineup as a freshman after McGuffey’s leading scorer suffered an injury, it did not take her long to establish herself as one of the top players in WPIAL girls basketball.
As a sophomore, Weiss averaged 26.7 points and led the Highlanders to the state playoffs. Her 503 total points were the most in the area for girls or boys basketball, and the once struggling girls basketball program at McGuffey became a model of success. Few thought she could replicate the achievement as a junior.
Weiss averaged 23.8 points per game this season, and can add two-time Observer-Reporter Player of the Year to her resume.
Her most remarkable achievement was an unexpected one. In a Jan. 3 game, the Highlanders earned a Section 2-AA win over Bentworth, and Weiss finished with 21 points. But it was her 15th that made her the school’s all-time leading scorer in girls or boys basketball.
When the milestone was announced to the crowd over the loudspeaker, Weiss laughed in surprise. She had no idea that the growing pains of her freshman year would pay off.
“It’s been pretty great for me,” Weiss said. “I’m pretty fortunate to get the awards that I do and that I get that kind of respect. It feels really good, but I’m still learning, so it’s not like I’m at the point where I can stop. I have to keep going and have to work on anything I can.”
After a junior season where media interviews became surprisingly frequent, Weiss decided to take a public speaking course to prepare for reporters jotting her thoughts onto paper. She earned an A in the class, but still ends her interviews with the same phrase: “I’m sorry that I’m so bad at this.”
“Away from basketball, she is probably one of the silliest kids I’ve met,” McGuffey head coach Amanda Burchett said. “She is a genuinely sweet kid. You can’t find someone nicer than her. I’ve never met anyone like her.”
While she is all business when she steps onto the court, Weiss is often joking around with teammates. After the Highlanders WPIAL title hopes were ended by Burrell, while leaving the locker room, Weiss jokingly told Burchett the team had all they needed for the bus ride back to Claysville: candy and tissues.
“Off the court, I like to be the person I am off the court, but I know when I get on the court, I can’t be silly or awkward,” Weiss said. “I have to play my game, and I have to be there. I like basketball so that’s easy for me. I have a basketball side to me, but I also have people skills.”
Burchett has coached Weiss throughout her high school career and one thing has been a constant for Sammie and her sister, Cassie: a strong work ethic.
“If you tell her that she would be better if she shot the ball with her feet, she would give it a try,” Burchett said. “Everything you tell her, she will do.”