By Marty Farmer
The more things change the more they stay the same.
That's at least the hope of first-year Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball coach Mike Reingruber.
Reingruber, who was named the new head coach last April, succeeds IBCA Hall of Fame coach Tom McCloskey
Although RBHS had an uncharacteristically subpar 12-16 record last season, consider it an aberration. Two starters left the team during the regular season and the Bulldogs could never get quite on track. To his credit, McCloskey handled the adversity of his final season with perspective and class.
"Despite last year's record, our program is in a really healthy place," Reingruber said. "After what happened last season, our players are hungry and gained valuable experience. I'd be a fool to change things that's worked for all these years. We're excited to get back to our winning ways."
Similar to the Bulldogs' stellar past, which included a mind-boggling run of 15 straight conference championships (2002-2016), RBHS fans can expect up-tempo offense and tenacious defense under Reingruber.
RBHS has the personnel to accommodate this style of play.
The starting backcourt of Zach Vaia (6.1 points, 3 assists per game, 40% 3-point shooter in 2016) and Ryan Cicenas will set the tone along the perimeter.
"Zach is a heady, battle-tested point guard," Reingruber said. "He values each possession and is a good shooter as well."
Speaking of shooting, Cicenas is about as good as it gets. The three-year varsity player also averaged 12 points, four rebounds and two assists last season.
"Ryan is a tremendous shooter. He's added other pieces to his game," Reingruber said. "Ryan was actually moved up to the varsity team which won a sectional title. He's seen all the highs and lows."
Senior forward AJ Meindl is another all-court player who will see playing time.
Versatile forwards Jason Bageanis and Andrew Veon anchor the frontline. While the center position is undetermined, junior post players 6-foot-8 Nathan Lucas and 6-foot-6 Samuel Grivetti could be in the mix. They are both dealing with injuries, however, as is senior forward Devin Moody.
Until the Bulldogs reach full strength, a solid bench already exists with Patrick Hanley, Reggie Loury, Charles Terry, Andrew Pitlik and Ryan Cermak.
RBHS kicks off the season by hosting the Bill VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Tournament (Nov. 20-25). On Friday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m., the Bulldogs take on area rival Lyons Township at the Chicago Elite Classic at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Other regular-season highlights include the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York High School and Metro Suburban Conference games.
After having their consecutive conference titles streak snapped at 15 by Immaculate Conception last year, the Bulldogs are hungry to reclaim the top spot of the conference standings. According to Reingruber, it won't be easy with IC, Glenbard South and Wheaton Academy in the mix.
"From the November till the end of February, we're striving to win a conference championship," Reingruber said. "I know all the guys are really hungry to get back on a track and have a great season."