When Samantha Bloom, Lyndsey Hoyd and Dana Rettke stepped right into starting roles as freshmen on the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls basketball team in 2013, head coach Dallas Till knew the program had a bright future.
The talented trio already have made good on their promise, powering the Bulldogs to a 51-12 record over the past two seasons. Till can’t believe his prized pool of players will be juniors next winter. Time sure flies when you’re winning games.
“I almost get sad knowing that they are already halfway through their basketball careers at RB,” he said. “It really puts things in perspective how quickly things move. You start to build bonds with players and then they are gone. Those girls are basketball junkies and have been great leaders of the program.”
This summer, Till has been able to spend more time with his team during the Lisle Basketball Summer League.
“The Lisle summer league is a great fit for us,” Till said. “The proximity in terms of location plus time of games and a good relationship with the Lisle coaches make it very beneficial. We also face some tough teams which helps us prepare for next season. Fortunately, we were able to play well and win the league this summer.”
Although the 6-foot-7 Rettke didn’t play in the league due to volleyball commitments (she has verbally committed to play college volleyball at Wisconsin), the superb backcourt of Bloom and Hoyd still led the Bulldogs to a 9-2 record and league championship.
“Sam and Lyndsey carried us,” Till said. “They were in midseason form and did what they always do, which is make plays, score, pass and defend. They were able to dominate some games and carry us to victory.”
While production from Bloom, Hoyd and Rettke is a given, Till believes the summer season provides an invaluable opportunity to evaluate the rest of the roster. That analysis is particularly relevant heading into next season as RBHS graduated eight players this year.
“We lost a big group of seniors,” Till said. “Everybody will remember [starting forward] Janae [Dabney], but we also had a lot of great role players like Miranda Chavez, Natalia Gheewala, Renee Kunkel and Caitie Rusen along with others we need to replace.
“Every summer brings a new start. It’s an opportunity to develop some continuity and rapport among the players. I’m looking for players who can transfer their game from the lower level to varsity basketball.”
Another valuable returning player is senior forward Jessica Jno Baptiste. She made her varsity debut last season and quickly emerged as a starter with upside. Jno Baptiste is a stretch four who complements Rettke’s inside dominance well
“Jess had a nice summer,” Till said. “We’re looking for big things from here next season. She’s capable of stepping up her scoring and rebounding for us.”
Senior forwards Elexis Walker and Brenda Ulloa, reserves last season, figure to see more playing time next winter.
Till is excited about the potential of sophomore Allie Kucera. She starred on the RBHS soccer team as a freshman, leading the Bulldogs to a regional title.
“Allie is an excellent all-around athlete. She’s one of the best female athletes I have ever seen at our school,” he said. “We’re hoping she blends into the group and perhaps can take charge of the fifth spot in the lineup.
“When it’s all said and done, she might be the best soccer player to come out of RB. I think she has great potential in basketball because of her pure athleticism and competitive nature. The beauty of it for our team is she doesn’t have to score to be effective. We’ll need her to do the little things like set screens, make good passes, defend and rebound.”
The bench is also well stocked with coaching talent as Marty Sloan and John Gaines ran the Bulldogs’ junior varsity squad at Lisle while Lou Kucera assisted Till during varsity games.
Mark Ruge, Till’s top assistant coach in both girls basketball and baseball, has coached the latter this summer.
“None of this would be possible without Mark,” Till said. “I have full confidence and trust in him to coach the baseball program during the summer. We check in with each other every day to talk about the state of both programs. Marty, John, Lou and [assistant baseball coach] Joe Ruge also know their roles as coaches.”