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  • Val T.

Rochester boys basketball preview:

Bowers takes over at point, while Bozzo, Hook, Reinartz provide athleticism


Sports Editor, RTC

It’s the classic dilemma for a point guard.

When do I look for my own shot, and when do I look to get my teammates involved?

That might explain what is going through the mind of Rochester junior Drew Bowers on the eve of the season.

Bowers was the leading scorer on last year’s Zebra JV. But with the graduations of 1,000-point scorer Paul Leasure as well as Aidan Smith and older brother Brock Bowers from a team that went 11-10, Rochester needs reinforcements in the backcourt.

Rochester coach Rob Malchow compared Bowers to a Basketball Hall of Famer for his decision-making ability during the preseason.

“I think he’s more of a point guard who can score,” Malchow said. “Do you know who he reminds me of? … He reminds me of Steve Nash a little bit. He’s going to run the point like Steve Nash did, but he’s got a flair to score like Nash did. What I mean by that is sometimes you get guys who are scorers who have to be your point guard but they do not have a point guard mentality. Drew, like Nash, to me is a guy who gets it. He has a savvy approach to the game. He knows when to find guys and then when to get his. He is more than willing to let other people have theirs and get his when he’s left open.”

Malchow said last year’s team was overly dependent on Leasure to carry the scoring load. He said this year’s scoring will be more “by committee.”

“We had spurts last year where I felt like early in the season, Brock Bowers had some big games before Christmas,” Malchow said. “I thought Paul was pretty consistent even though he had better games than other games like all scorers do. I think with this team the balance could be more consistent in how we share the scoring load. I thought last year there were just certain guys that had to score for us to put points on the board.”

Rochester also graduated center Luke Hunting and back-up wing Ethan Medina from last year’s roster. Then they lost 6-6 junior center Xavier Vance to a knee injury that he suffered in a sectional football game against Lafayette Central Catholic on Oct. 27. The injury required surgery and will keep him out for the season.

Without Vance, there is no true post player, according to Malchow.

“I don’t think it will change because without X, we’ve kind of got a similar team in terms of our size,” Malchow said. “I think we’re a little longer across the board.”

This year’s frontcourt consists of senior forwards Dylan Hook, who returns to basketball after playing JV in 2021-22; Robert Bozzo, a 6-3 sharpshooter who did not play in 2022-23; and Luke Malchow.

“I think there’s some athleticism there,” Malchow said. “One of the things that will really determine early in the season how we’re doing is how quickly Dylan Hook and Robert Bozzo get back into form after not playing last season. How quickly they pick up on things and get comfortable. Robert played varsity as a sophomore and even started a couple games, and Dylan was our JV player of the year. They didn’t play last season, and they talked to me in the offseason and obviously regretted it. … Their athleticism and their length plays into their favor.”

Juniors in the frontcourt include 6-2 sharpshooting wing Tanner Reinartz, 6-0 forward Owen Prater, 6-3 forward Hunter Honkomp and 6-1 wing Bryce Baugher, who scored eight points off the bench in last year’s sectional semifinal loss to Lewis Cass and “could be a really good defender,” according to Malchow.

“I thought Bryce Baugher had a good summer,” Malchow said. “Owen Prater had a good summer. … I didn’t see a lot of Tanner because of baseball, but he just obviously has that mentality of attacking and scoring. From that standpoint, I see it coming from different angles on different nights depending on who we’re playing and the style.”

Prater impresses Malchow with his “tenacity.”

“I don’t know that there are many that compete the way he does,” Malchow said. “He’s just tough. … There’s no question he’s going to be one of our better defenders.”

Honkomp will split time between JV and varsity.

“As far as length and size, he’s going to be around the bucket, so I would call him kind of a mix,” Mlachow said when asked if Honkomp is more of a small forward or power forward.

Davis Renie, a 5-10 junior, saw some varsity minutes last year, but Malchow said he will be the JV point guard.

Sophomores in the program include Grant Clark, Carson Paulik, Jack Reffett, Jonas Kiser, Wade Bowers, Carlos Plascencia, Connor Dunfee and Ashton Musselman.

“I think Clark, Paulik, Reffett and Kiser all have the ability to do that,” Malchow said when asked what sophomores who could contribute to the varsity. “They were the guys that played a lot of minutes last year on the JV, so I think they’ve put themselves in a place where they are on our radar.”

Malchow said the sophomores will make the older players accountable.

“The sophomores are going to be pushing some guys,” Malchow said. “They’re coming, and they’re hungry.”

Malchow was asked about team leadership without the graduated players.

“They seem to understand what our goals are, and they seem to have that mentality of whatever it takes,” Malchow said. “Let’s make this happen. Sometimes you’ve got guys in their youthful exuberance, they kind of have that me-first attitude, but I don’t see that with these guys.”

Schedule changes

Tippecanoe Valley is no longer in the Three Rivers Conference, but the rivals will still meet at Valley on Dec. 22.

Lewis Cass is new to the TRC, and Rochester will travel to Walton to face the Kings on Jan. 12. That gives Rochester 21 regular season games instead of the typical 20 they have had since Malchow began his second stint as coach in 2017.

Rochester will also travel to Lewis Cass for Class 2A, Sectional 36, which runs from Feb. 27-March 2.

The Oregon-Davis game has been moved to the final week of the regular season.

Coaching changes

There are no changes: Luke Smith and Rex Reinholt will return as varsity assistants, Sean Kelly will coach the JV. Joe McCarter will be a volunteer assistant for both the girls and boys teams.

Class 2A, Sectional 36

Lewis Cass, North Miami, Pioneer, ROCHESTER, Wabash, Winamac


Nov. 22 – at Culver, 7 p.m.

Dec. 1 – vs. Winamac, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 8 – at North Judson, 8 p.m.

Dec. 9 – vs. Logansport, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 15 – at North Miami, 7:45 p.m.

Dec. 22 – at Valley, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 29 – at Wawasee tournament

Jan. 4 – vs. Whitko, 7:45 p.m.

Jan. 12 – at Lewis Cass, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 16 – vs. Caston, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 19 – vs. Manchester, 7:45 p.m.

Jan. 26 – vs. Northfield, 7:45 p.m.

Jan. 27 – at North White, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 1 – at Southwood, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 6 – at Plymouth, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 9 – vs. Wabash, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 13 – at Triton, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 16 – at Peru, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 20 – vs. Oregon-Davis, 8 p.m.

Feb. 23 – vs. Maconaquah, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 27-March 2 – Class 2A, Sectional 36 at Lewis Cass

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