R-P boy’s basketball enters new era

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A new era has officially begun for the Rushford-Peterson boys’ basketball team. Hall of Fame coach Tom Vix has retired, and long-time assistant Chris Drinkall has taken the reins as the new head coach. Drinkall’s hire marks the first coaching change in the R-P boys basketball program in almost four decades.

Drinkall says preparations for the new era are off to a good start. “It’s early on and we’re getting stuff ready,” he said. “We’re working on a lot of drills, most of which we’ve done in the past. We’re not going to change a lot of things. Obviously, Coach Vix’s record speaks for itself. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. He’s got a proven process and program in place that he’s built over 35 years.

“The kids have bought into what we want to do,” he added. “Being an assistant coach under Vix for the last 15 years, most of the things we’ll do in practice won’t be different. We’ll do some tweaking to the system, but for the most part, it’s the same one that we’ve run.”

While some coaches might find it intimidating to take over for a coach with Tom Vix’s resume, Drinkall said the 15 years he spent working under Vix makes the transition much less difficult. He said Vix regularly let the assistants take the lead from time-to-time during practices in order to keep improving their craft.

“Not having played a game yet, I don’t know what it’ll be like to make the final decisions on the court,” Drinkall said. “There will definitely be a learning curve for me.”

The Trojans went 24-9 last season and finished in 6th place at the Class A State tournament. The team lost several seniors off that team but do bring back an important piece from that state-tournament squad.

“Point guard Landon Skalet returns,” Drinkall said. “He started last year as a junior, played as a freshman and sophomore, and was all-conference last season. We also bring back the top two guys off the bench. Luke O’Hare and Kobe Lind were both freshmen who played well last season.

“It’s always tough losing four seniors that started and played well for us,” he added. “Skalet is the only senior we have out so there will be a lot of new faces that’ll be playing. However, I have total confidence in the guys that’ll be stepping in and get us back to where we were last year.”

The team will have some good size on the roster. Ben Wieser and Vinnie Mason are both 6-foot-5, so there will be some size in the post. However, this year’s team will be guard-oriented when they have the basketball. Drinkall says the good thing about that is an experienced point guard like Skalet will be the guy running the offense.

“There are two things you wish for as a coach,” he said. “One is a lot of seniors, and two is one of those seniors is your point guard. We’ve got a point guard who did a tremendous job last year. He’s also the quarterback of the football team so he’s used to being the leader out there. When you’ve been playing as long as he has, you get used to being a leader on the floor and on the field.”

There’s no question Caledonia is the team to beat in the Three Rivers Conference again this season. The Warriors have two King boys returning this season (freshman guard Eli and junior guard Noah).

“La Crescent and Plainview(-Elgin-Millville) both have good classes coming up,” he said. “Overall, our conference is always tough. St. Charles has a good team, Dover-Eyota has Brady Williams, who’s a 6-foot-5 guard. There’s not going to be a game we can walk into, play half-speed, and come away with a win.

“I would add that Spring Grove is likely the team to beat in the section (1A),” he added.