• Val T.

Rochester boys basketball preview:

Updated: 4 days ago

Zebras graduate 4 starters from conference, sectional champs, but add move-in Leasure


BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

Cram session.

That’s how Rochester boys basketball coach Rob Malchow has described the process of teaching all the plays and concepts in practice as the team gets ready to begin its season against Culver at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The reason why it might feel like a cram session is because Rochester graduated six players, five of whom were starters, from last year’s team that went 18-2 overall and 9-0 in the Three Rivers Conference. In addition to the conference title, they also won their second straight sectional title.

The season ended with a 47-30 loss to Rossville in a Class 2A regional semifinal.

Of the players who graduated, Kyle Reinartz, Grant McCarter and Quin Stesiak were all first-team all-TRC players. Reinartz was also the RTC player of the year.

That leaves junior point guard Tarick McGlothin, an honorable mention all-TRC pick from last year, as the only returning starter.

“Last season, when we came in and being a COVID year, I think our advantage was we were senior-dominated,” Malchow said. “Those guys had been doing it for three seasons at that point. So I’d call a play or I’d say a press breaker… and they would just jump right in. And we had to tweak it. This year, we’re starting, and we have to re-teach it. It’s more of a start-over season then it was last season.”

They still have one first-team all-TRC player on this year’s roster. That would be Paul Leasure, a junior guard and a move-in from Tippecanoe Valley.

Malchow said he had heard rumors that Leasure, who scored 503 career points in his two years at Valley, was moving in.

However, the transfer occurred without fanfare. Leasure simply showed up at a Rochester open gym in June and introduced himself.

“I stayed away and never asked questions,” Malchow said. “Coach (Tony) Stesiak and I would meet up in the hallway and be like, ‘Well, this is what I heard, but I’ll believe it when I see it.’ And then when he came to the first open gym, we believed it because we saw it.”

He could fill in for McCarter at shooting guard. And given that the team has only one senior, Leasure taking on a leadership role is well-timed.

“He’s a really good leader,” Malchow said of Leasure. “Probably his leadership is a thing that I’ve been most impressed with. It’s obvious he can knock down shots, and he can handle the ball. You see that when you’re coaching against him. You saw that he was a key component to their offense when he was at Tippecanoe Valley. So you know the obvious. I didn’t know the kid in terms of what he represented as a person and his leadership with his peers, the guys in the locker room, the guys in the hallway at school. It’s like he’s been here the whole time. He fits like a glove.”

Evan Elliott, a 5-11 forward who scored the first two points in his varsity career when he made two free throws in the loss to Rossville, is the team’s only senior, and Malchow said Elliott will help impart program culture on the younger players.

Leasure and McGlothin are two of eight juniors listed on the roster. Aidan Smith, a 5-11 guard, has the next most amount of playing time among the junior group.

“He’s just such a good all-around player,” Malchow said of Smith. “He defends well. He’s probably our best passer to the interior. And athletically, even at 5-11, he probably plays more about 6-2 because of the way he plays, his jumping ability, his quickness and how he gets off the floor. He probably is our best defender. So he just has an all-around game. If we were playing a man, he’d probably be guarding every team’s best player. He’d probably hopefully getting into double figures, about 10,11 points, and then he would probably have four or five assists. That’s just who he is when he’s healthy.”

The other juniors are Hunter Campbell, Brock Bowers, Aaron Huffman, Luke Hunting and Ethan Medina.

Colton Ferverda and Robert Bozzo, both forwards, are the team’s two sophomores.

The two freshmen are Tanner Reinartz and Xavier Vance. Reinartz is 6-2, and Vance is 6-5, and they might be expected to provide the inside force that the Zebras will miss with the graduation of Stesiak, Kyle Reinartz and Blake Hughes.

Tanner Reinartz has already acquired the nickname “Bull” from Malchow.

But it’s still an ongoing process as to which newcomers step up.

“Varsity-wise, right now I’ve got 13 guys, and trying to figure out the top seven and eight right now has been difficult right now because of the lack of experience,” Malchow said. “And just trying to see who’s going to step up. It’s becoming clearer, but until we play a couple games … it’s as clear as mud.”

Malchow is in his 14th season as coach and in his fifth year of his second stint. Since being hired again in 2017, he’s largely relied on various zone defenses.

This year’s defensive identity is not so certain. But with the 5-10 McGlothin, the 5-10 Leasure and the 5-11 Smith, guards are going to have to help rebound.

“We talk about that a lot,” Malchow said. “Kind of like the ‘09 team. This team isn’t that team, but size is comparable. I think Bruce Grimm led us in rebounds along with assists and scoring, yet Austin Lowe and Brody Schoen and Colt Meadows were getting three or four rebounds a game also. I don’t think we had a guy that year that averaged more than five, but we probably had seven guys averaging four. And that’s where you need to be, around 30 rebounds a game, and that’s how we got it. … (Last year), we knew (Kyle) Reinartz, Quin and Blake took care of the boards. Well, we don’t have that this year. It’s going to be a team concept.”

Rochester Zebras schedule

Nov. 24 – at Culver, 7 p.m.

Nov. 27 – at Tri-Central, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 3 – vs. Winamac, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 10 – at North Judson, 8 p.m.

Dec. 11 – vs. Logansport, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 17 – at North Miami, 7:45 p.m.

Dec. 29 – at Wawasee tournament

Jan. 7 – vs. Whitko, 7:45 p.m.

Jan. 8 – vs. Oregon-Davis, 7 p.m.

Jan. 14 – at Tippecanoe Valley, 7:45 p.m.

Jan. 18 – vs. Caston, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 21 – vs. Manchester, 7:45 p.m.

Jan. 28 – vs. Northfield, 7:45 p.m.

Jan. 29 – at North White, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 3 – at Southwood, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 11 – vs. Wabash, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 15 – at Triton, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 18 – at Peru, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 25 – vs. Maconaquah, 7:45 p.m.

March 1-5 – Class 2A, Sectional 37 at Winamac



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