Sailors basketball returns with Vandahl’s ‘most talented and athletic’ team |

Sailors basketball returns with Vandahl’s ‘most talented and athletic’ team

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team heads into its season early next month without three of its top five scorers from a year ago, including the player who was selected as league MVP and the four seniors who helped the team to a Western Slope League championship.

Freshman Dawson Nibbelink shoots a layup during a drill at the Steamboat Springs High School Boys Baskeball practice Tuesday afternoon.

Still, coach Michael Vandahl is confident he has another special team on his hands.

“We’re probably the most talented and athletic team we have had in my three years overall,” Vandahl said.

The catch, he said, is inexperience. The team only has three players returning who saw regular minutes a year ago.

“Behind them, there is a talented group, but one that doesn’t really have varsity experience yet,” Vandahl said.

Fans can get an early preview of how well that’s coming together at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at a public intra-squad scrimmage at the high school. C team and junior varsity players will play starting at 4:30 p.m. with the varsity taking the court around 5.

The team is accepting food donations at the door for local charities.

What the Sailors do return with this season gives them a big first step. Mac Riniker, a junior, is the team’s leading returning scorer and was second on the team a year ago, behind his brother, that graduated league MVP, Ethan Riniker.

Mac Riniker scored 9.9 points per game a year ago and was also second on the team in rebounding, pulling down 4.7 per game.

Jake Berry, a senior this season, averaged 6.7 points per game, and Tyler Doyne, a junior, averaged 3.6 points per game.

Aiden Knaus, a junior; Ethan Pyles, a sophomore; Dawnson Lindquist, a sophomore and Quinn Connell, a junior, are all short on varsity experience but should be in position to change that fast.

One key position battle to be decided early in the season is who will take the point. Ethan Riniker eventually ran the position for most of last season, and Mac Riniker could play a similar role this year.

Vandahl said Connell and Pyles also could see time there.

“I’m not too concerned about replacing (Ethan Riniker’s) scoring, but am about his rebounding and that point guard position,” Vandahl said. “We might have a point guard by committee this year.”

The season tips off Dec. 1 with a game on the road against Roaring Fork in the Brenda Patch Tournament. The team will launch into league play Jan. 9 on the road against Battle Mountain.

“We’re excited for the year,” Vandahl said. “Just basketball talent wise, this is the most talented group in shooting, passing and athleticism we’ve had. We’re quick and fast, but my biggest concern is leadership and how our guys who will be getting experience for the first time will mesh with those who’ve had experience before.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

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