Nate Schoditsch and Dylan Meehan had a good view of one of the best seasons in Riverside-Brookfield’s program history last season.
The Bulldogs, led by point guard Zach Vaia and Patrick Hanley, relied on a tight rotation of seven seniors to post a 28-5 record, losing to top-ranked Curie in a Class 4A Proviso West Sectional semifinal. Mike Reingruber led the Bulldogs to the second-best season in the program’s history. It was just behind the 2014-15 campaign that finished with a 28-4 record along with regional and sectional titles, according to IHSA season-by-season records dating to 1917.
Schoditsch and Meehan were part of a junior group that received sparse playing time because of R-B’s strong schedule and deep senior class.
“It’s a new team,” Reingruber said during a break in the Hoop Mountain Shootout on June 14. “It’s definitely a group that for years has been winners, but they didn’t get the experience last season because of the seniors ahead of them. It’s now their turn to shine, and we’re mixing them with seniors that didn’t play much as juniors and incoming juniors. This is their junior year essentially.”
Schoditsch and senior Luke Gentile enter the summer attempting to fill a big void at point guard left by the graduation of playmaker Vaia.
The 6-foot Schoditsch said it was awkward and difficult sitting on the bench last season.
“Last year was such a learning year for me,” he said. “I wasn’t used to playing behind anyone in my life, so playing behind Zach taught me so much.
“I’m hoping to be more of a contributor on offense and keeping the team under control. I’ve been working on my confidence, especially in shooting.”
Reingruber said Schoditsch and Gentile probably will split time at the point, noting that they present different matchup problems for opponents. Schoditsch played scant minutes on the varsity last season, while Gentile gained valuable experience during a stretch in January when Ryan Cermak missed a handful of games because of an injury, Reingruber said.
“Nate is more of a create off the bounce and break guys down,” he said. “Nate is a bit more dynamic with the ball in his hands, and Luke is more steady and just does his job. He’s more systematic and a very good on-ball defender.”
Schoditsch, a wide receiver and safety on the football team, said the roster turnover won’t be a big factor because “75% of our team has played with each other since fourth grade.”
Senior forward Meehan, like Gentile and Schoditsch, is set to be a bigger contributor. The 6-foot-4 Meehan, a three-sport athlete, is a player to watch on a team lacking size inside.
“I’ve always been smaller than most of the big men we play, so I just battle it out and help my teammates on defense,” Meehan said. “I’m trying to put on some weight by lifting and working on my 3-point shooting. I’ve been putting up shots every day.”
Reingruber said guards Jack Stivers and Ryan Gaynor and forward Jamir Truman are among the varsity returnees expected to fill the void after the heavy graduation losses.
Reingruber said the addition of Richards senior transfer Paul Zilinskas is a big plus. The 6-foot-4 forward was a key contributor for the Bulldogs last season.
“Paul does have some experience, played a lot of meaningful minutes and has versatility and can shoot, get to the rim and a good rebounder and takes pride in guarding,” Reingruber said.