BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Rochester boys basketball team consists of six senior friends who have played basketball and other sports together their whole lives.
To understand this close-knit nature, one might have to appreciate the one senior who did not play in the Class 2A, Sectional 37 final win over Lewis Cass Saturday.
Reece Renie. Renie was the quarterback on the football team in the fall. He is a regional qualifier in golf, having made it as part of the Rochester team in 2018 and as an individual in 2019.
But in the winter, he had been an accomplished swimmer. He was third in the 50 freestyle and second in the 100 freestyle at the 2020 Three Rivers Conference meet. He was fourth in both of those events at the 2020 Warsaw sectional.
But he decided to quit swimming and come out for basketball as a senior.
“Even though I don’t play a whole lot, it felt about as good as it possibly good,” Renie said of being able to hold the trophy Saturday.
Renie said that all the guys on the basketball team are some of his best friends.
“I just missed being around them over the winter,” Renie said. “Because over the winter, during the swim season, I never get to hang out with them all the time. I just wanted to be a part of it. That’s just something I wanted to be a part of because I love being around the guys, and I wanted to make them better.”
During the summer of COVID, Renie would commonly visit Grant McCarter’s house for pick-up basketball games.
“One day, I think Grant was just like, ‘Why don’t you play basketball?’” Renie said. “Because I always joked since I was in seventh grade, ‘I’m going to play basketball this year,’ and I never did.”
Teammates call him a vocal leader.
“We played games in our driveways,” senior teammate Quin Stesiak said. “We played games in the park. He started showing up more this year. He seemed to have more of an interest in it. So he stuck with it. I wasn’t sure what he’s going to do. But he ended up playing, and he’s kind of embraced it. We’ve all just appreciated his presence kinda being here on this team. … We’re glad to have him. We’re glad to have the energy he brings.”
This time, though, he wasn’t joking. The next step after the pick-up games at McCarter’s house was open gyms.
“And then I thought about it, and I was really enjoying it over the summer, so I went to a couple open gyms, and just like that… I loved being around them, and I love the sport. Basketball is one of my favorite sports; I’ve just never been great at it.”
Renie was asked how tough it was to give up swimming. His father Kevin is an assistant coach at RHS.
“It was pretty tough,” Renie said. “It was tough until right around February, right when they were having their big meets. I was like … I miss it now, but at the time, it was like I like being around my best friends all the time., so it wasn’t as tough then. But once I saw the sectional going on for swimming, it started to hit a little bit. I kinda wished a little bit I was swimming, but I wouldn’t switch my decision at all.”
Renie attended boys basketball games and watched his friends from the stands for three years. So he knew what they could do on the court.
The eye opener, though, were the practices. He said the conditioning at practices has been the hardest part of being on the team.
“I’ve always been a guy when I watch games, I can’t sit still,” Renie said. “Just because of the emotions of the game. And to sit on the bench and trying to control my emotions, it’s fun to contain, but it’s not easy at all.”
Practices have allowed him to see his senior friends in a new light as well.
“Until you see some of the stuff in practice, the hustle plays, the competitiveness, it completely changes the outlook,” Renie said. “Just looking at them now, maybe they got a whole lot better, but they seem a whole lot better now than they did a year ago.”
Renie said he also considers his sophomore teammates Tarick McGlothin and Aidan Smith among his best friends.
But the core of the team consists of himself, McCarter, Quin Stesiak, Kyle Reinartz, Trenton Reinholt and Blake Hughes.
“That’s exactly what it is,” Renie said. “It feels like going to basketball practice every day, you’re going to work and you’re going to get a job done, but you enjoy it.
“I love all these guys. It’s been great.”