The battles in the backyard would get fierce, because the twin boys of course wanted to get the better of each other.
When John and Jesse Roggendorf were little kids, basketball quickly became their passion, and they’d have 1-on-1 wars behind their house in Great Neck.
John, older by two whole minutes, was bigger and rougher back then, and he’d push Jesse around as much as possible. But Jesse didn’t back down and so, well, you know, there was blood and bruises occasionally that parents John and Berenise had to clean up.
“Only sometimes (was there blood),” Jesse recalled with a smile. “We just always were working to get better, and having him to practice against made me a lot better.”
Fortunately for Great Neck South, John and Jesse are on the same team now, and the younger twin has been a big reason for the Rebels’ success the past two seasons.
Last year as a sophomore, Jesse pumped in 18.5 points per game, including 41 in an eruption against Calhoun last January, helping Great Neck South reach the second round of the Class AA playoffs.
This season, with first-year head coach Mike Holleran taking over from longtime and now retired/assistant coach Steve Liebertz, Roggendorf and Great Neck South are poised to soar even higher.
The 6-foot-1 guard is pouring in 20.2 points per game, good for eighth-best in Nassau County, and has added four assists per game as well.
The sharpshooter has also made 49 3-pointers, the third-highest total in the county, in leading his team to a 12-3 overall record, and 8-1 in Conference AA-1 play through games of January 26.
“Jesse could always shoot the ball, and had good range, but he’s taken that even farther this year,” Holleran said. “He can now make (shots) regularly from 23-25 feet. He’s very very tough to guard.”
Roggendorf said his mindset began to shift during freshman year, when he first made varsity and found that a few years of playing AAU ball with Team Relentless had made him stronger.
He became a starter for GNS midway through his freshman season, and had an immediate impact.
“He was tough and didn’t back down, even though he was a little smaller back then,” Holleran said. “And he was a great dribbler and great at getting open in transition.”
Roggendorf came to hoops in first grade, he said, as he and John searched for a sport that suited their relentless energy.
As he grew, Roggendorf found an escape between the lines of a court.
“It was always something where if I was stressed out or just not feeling great, I’d get on the court and it was great for me,” he said. “It’s just always been something I could turn to.”
With a compact jump-shot release, Roggendorf is able to score points in bunches, like he did in the Calhoun game.
“That was an amazing feeling,” he said with a smile. “Everything I threw up was going in that day.”
Trying to pattern himself after current players like Steph Curry and old-school stars like Allen Iverson and Derrick Rose, Roggendorf said he’s still trying to improve his mid-range game, with Holleran urging him to drive more and finish at the rim.
“He’s getting stronger and he’s able to get past guys and score inside,” Holleran said. “Always telling him to do it more.”
Hoping to play at a Division II or III school, Roggendorf is most focused now on getting Great Neck South a county championship. Last season saw the Rebels enjoy a late 11-game winning streak that carried them into the playoffs, before losing to eventual Long Island champ South Side.
“Our mentality is we want to win big things, and get that ‘chip,” Roggendorf said. “Everybody is focused in and feeling like we can get it.”