- Val T.
Rochester boys basketball preview:
Zebras bring back 4 starters from sectional champs, but who’s the point guard?
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
In these uncertain times, the Rochester boys basketball team has a pretty certain nucleus.
The top four scorers from last year’s team that won the Class 2A, Sectional 37 title are back. Grant McCarter, Quin Stesiak, Kyle Reinartz and Blake Hughes are all seniors this year, and they will try to get some finality to their high school careers.
That didn’t happen last year after the IHSAA canceled the remainder of the boys basketball tournament after RHS won its first sectional title in 11 years.
“I guess out of my three seasons, this being the fourth, this would be the team that I would have wanted to have this issue with as far as experience goes,” RHS coach Rob Malchow, in the fourth season of his second stint and his 13th season overall, said. “We’ve got six seniors, five seniors who have played quite a bit together going through elementary school, middle school and high school.”
Trenton Reinholt is another senior with varsity experience. Reece Renie is a senior who is a varsity newcomer.
Malchow said the seniors are self-starters. It reminded him of his high school days in the 1980s before individual and team camps and activities made the offseason so structured.
“They were freshmen my first year in, and they know what to do, and they play a lot on their own,” Malchow said. “They would meet up at the park or over at Grant’s house and play – any way that they could. Whether it was three or four guys getting together to work out or six or eight guys to play some halfcourt ball or go down to the park at Fansler and get up and down the floor, I feel like the guys really filled in and got things done themselves.”
Malchow said this group of seniors was what motivated him to want to get back into coaching after a six-year absence from the bench.
“Now I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping very much so that these kids get a chance to play their season,” he said.
Malchow sees point guard as an uncertain position. Both Nick Allen and Kalvary Lingenfelter graduated from last year’s team. They were the primary ballhandlers. Sophomore Tarick McGlothin saw some spare varsity minutes in addition to extensive JV time last year and could help. Some of the returnees could also have their ballhandling duties increase.
“I think the point guard situation is probably the biggest question mark with us,” Malchow said. “Tarick is playing with the varsity a lot as he did as a freshman in practice. Even though he didn’t play in game play very much last season, he practiced with us all season. He’s a little bigger, a little stronger. Of the sophomores, you look at him and the experience he gained with us, he may have an opportunity to be our point guard. I don’t know if that will be early in the season, maybe in the middle of the season. I’m not sure, but I know that probably early in the season, it’s going to be a little bit of point guard by committee.”
Stesiak’s role is intriguing. A point guard through his elementary, middle school and JV days, he evolved into a forward who could contribute both inside and outside.
“You might even see where we got two guards on the floor, but it might be more like a point forward that’s leading us,” Malchow said. “That’s the thing with this team, whether it’s Quin, who plays a forward spot for us but last year in the sectional, he brought the ball up for us at times. He’s been a point guard his whole life, but he’s grown into such a strong young man and the size that he really hurts people down low, yet he still has that point guard mentality and the ballhandling ability that if he have a mismatch with someone who’s guarding him, we can take advantage of that and let him bring the ball up the floor.”
Malchow also sees a more energetic Reinartz. Malchow said a persistent illness affected Reinartz’s productivity last season. He said a healthier Reinartz might have made a difference in narrow losses to Caston (in double overtime) and Manchester (by one point). Malchow said Reinartz is healthy for this season.
“I don’t think anybody really knew just how much he struggled with illness last season from the very beginning of the season on fall break when I got a call that he had mono,” Malchow said. “That’s one of those things where that thing lingered and lingered. … Kyle Reinartz, I don’t think got to play the level of basketball that I thought he would his junior year, but I’m seeing the senior version that’s pretty impressive. He’s very vocal. He knows where he's supposed to be, he ‘s talking to the younger players, he’s more aggressive offensively, and he’s always played with energy, but he’s back to the energy we saw when he was a freshman and sophomore that I think that we didn’t realize how much energy last season he was lacking fighting through all those illnesses.”
Malchow praised his team’s 2-3 zone defense, saying that was the reason the Zebras won the sectional. The 6-5 Hughes, who scored a career-high 16 points in the sectional final, could also be a defensive stopper, and the 6-2 Stesiak and 6-4 Reinartz could jump out on wings or guards while also playing inside defensively. McCarter, who has grown to 6-1, can also bother opponents at the guard spot. Aidan Smith, a sophomore newcomer, could also help defensively this year too.
Malchow also said Reinholt’s game has “blossomed” and can play both guard or forward. Malchow said he’s improved his shooting and has natural leadership ability.
“Trent’s going to be a major part of what we do,” Malchow said.
McCarter was a reserve at the start of last season. Malchow said he was the Zebras’ best offensive player by the end of last season, leading the Zebras in scoring in sectional wins over Winamac and Rensselaer.
“He worked his tail off to make himself a more complete player,” Malchow said. “Not just a shooter but a scorer. … I just see a more complete and aggressive version of Grant McCarter at this point.”
After their traditional Thanksgiving Eve opener against Culver, RHS won’t play at home again until a Dec. 4 home game against North Judson.
RHS will play two games against sectional opponents, and they will occur consecutively. They will host Lewis Cass Dec. 30 and travel to Winamac Jan. 5. The sectional is at Delphi from March 2-6.
RHS will play three road games in a five-day span from Jan. 5-9, including trips to Winamac, Whitko (Jan. 8) and Oregon-Davis (Jan. 9).
Tri-Central and Oregon-Davis are the new additions to the schedule. The Tri-Central game was postponed and has not been rescheduled yet. The four-team North Miami tournament was dropped.
Rochester went 12-10 last season. They have not had back-to-back winning seasons since 2010 and 2011.
The Rochester boys basketball team will open its season at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday against visiting Culver. Front, from left – Reece Renie, Kyle Reinartz, Trenton Reinholt, Blake Hughes, Grant McCarter, Quin Stesiak, Dryden Vance. Back – Hunter Campbell, Brock Bowers, Tarick McGlothin, Aaron Huffman, Aidan Smith, Luke Hunting, manager Elly Fuller.