A team of two


Kate Walkup

Riley and Rowan practicing dribbling.

Kate Walkup, Sports Editor

Always together. 

“Going to college together was an automatic thing,” Riley said. “There was no question. Ever since we were little, we’ve done everything together. The first time we picked up a basketball, it was together.”

Growing up, the future Linfield freshman point guards spent every second of every day attached at the hip. After their first basketball practice, Riley and Rowan Cusack knew they would share a love of dribbling the basketball up the court and challenging each other to games of pickup for a lifetime. Always another point guard to defend, always a friend to practice passing with.

Riley and Rowan at practice. (Kate Walkup)

However, once Riley and Rowan’s junior year of high school rolled around, they knew it was time to start looking at the future of their sport and what that meant for them not just as teammates, but also what it meant for the twins as sisters. While Division I basketball seemed a bit out of reach for the 5’ 2” guards, Riley and Rowan felt confident about continuing their basketball careers at a Division III school. 

If playing on the same youth team, high school team and AAU team growing up wasn’t enough to make Riley and Rowan inseparable, then being forced to only have each other to practice passing, dribbling and shooting with—not to mention hanging out during school or just being normal high schoolers—certainly was enough. 

Junior year was when the world shut down. No more basketball practice. No more school. No more after-school hangouts with friends. Yet college decision time was creeping up on the twins, and the looming question of where they would end up—and if it was going to be together like they’d always planned—needed to be answered.

Riley and Rowan guarding each other. (Kate Walkup)

“After Covid, it was really hard because everyone got that extra year of eligibility,” Rowan said. “There were a lot of teams that we were talking to, but we ended up not going to those schools because many of their players came back for another year, and some of the schools had the entire team coming back.” 

Riley and Rowan needed a coach who wanted to take both of them. If the coach only wanted one, then the twins didn’t want to be a part of that team. 

“I just really liked the environment that [Linfield] Coach Casey [Bunn-Wilson] built with the team,” Rowan said. “She always kept in contact with us throughout our visit, and it was super natural.”

“It was definitely Coach Casey,” Riley said. “She was just super welcoming. I also wanted to be near my family and my two older sisters, Devin and Taylor, who live in Portland. I felt like I wasn’t too far away from home.”

Home for Riley and Rowan is about a three-hour drive from the Linfield campus to Auburn, Wash., as of their last two years of high school.

Riley and Rowan shooting 3-pointers. (Kate Walkup)

Riley and Rowan’s mom adopted the girls from Guatemala when they were only 3 years old and brought them to her home in Portland, Ore. Two years later, their mom got a job in Connecticut, and the twins lived there through fifth grade. Just before middle school, Riley and Rowan followed their mom out to the West Coast where they lived in Washington for a few years, then moved to Idaho and then back to Spokane, Wash., for their first few years of high school. 

Halfway through their junior year, the twins moved to Auburn, where they currently call home. Just a few months later, Covid pulled them away from their new school, leaving them with no one to be with except each other. 

“Right when we got to our new school, Rowan got a concussion,” Riley said, “so I was there by myself. I was just freaked out. Everyone kind of had a flow with their classes and had their groups.”

Two weeks after starting at Bellarmine Prep—their new high school in Auburn—high school turned to online school. While being in their bedroom attending classes wasn’t ideal, transitioning to college a few months later felt not as daunting as it had prior to moving part way through high school. Riley and Rowan had already gone through moving to different states, enrolling in new schools and finding an entirely new group of friends—multiple times.

Linfield freshmen Riley and Rowan Cusack. (Kate Walkup)

Making the move to college, leaving their family and starting on a new team was an adjustment for the twins, but they had one thing that was consistent, and that was each other. 

“I think that our biggest thing coming here was that we didn’t need to be worried and we didn’t need to rely on each other so much,” Rowan said. “Everyone was starting new, so that was nice.”

Although the twins might live across the hall from each other instead of in the same room, they still have their other half to rely on. Whether it be on the court during a grueling basketball workout or just having the comfort of having someone safe to talk to, Riley and Rowan are grateful to be spending this next chapter of their lives together. 

“I always have someone who’s going through the exact same things as I’m going through,” Riley said. “College is definitely different, you can’t really prepare for that. But it was nice having her there because it was kind of like having that home with you.”