Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team prepares for 2016-17 season |

Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team prepares for 2016-17 season

Steamboat Springs senior Ethan Riniker runs through drills with his teammates during a pre-season camp at the Steamboat Springs High School this week. Riniker is expected to be one of the leaders on the court this year for the Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team.
John F. Russell

— The first official game of the season is still a month away, but Steamboat Springs boys basketball coach Michael Vandahl feels this week’s pre-season camp is the first step to building a successful season.

“We are gearing up for the start of the season,” the second-year coach said before practice Wednesday. “It’s a special time of the year.”

It’s also one of the only times this season the coach will have all 25 players on the court at the same time. This week, they will be in camp, but shortly after the team’s first official practice Nov. 11, the squad will be broken down into varsity, junior varsity and “C” team squads.

“The early season is about instilling our culture with the players,” Vandahl said. “Culture is very important to the success of this program.”

The coach said culture will define what Steamboat basketball represents as a program and is expressed in the way team members treat one another in practice and how they interact with the other teams that they will face this season.

Vandahl wants Steamboat to be tough and to win, but more importantly, he wants the program to be respected.

“He’s trying to build the foundation and then we will work up from there,” senior Ethan Riniker said. “It’s a lot of review for the older guys, but it is necessary to build the foundation for the younger guys.”

By the time camp comes to an end Friday, Vandahl wants the players to represent Steamboat basketball — a “brand” that includes solid character in the community, hard work in both practice and games and good sportsmanship no matter if the team is winning or losing.

“I’m hoping that these players will learn how to attack everything with their best effort — not just on the basketball court but in everything they do in life,” Vandahl said.

After the camp, the team will spend the next month working on the technical aspects of the game, as well as strategies that will lead to competitive games on the court.

“I think we have a chance to be a very solid team this year,” Vandahl said. “Our goal is to take it one day at a time and to get better every day.”

Last year, the Sailors were 12-12 overall and 7-7 in league play. This year, the team will be without last year’s leading scorer Jon Rinck, who averaged 14.3 points a game in his senior year. The team also lost Zach Holm, John Zalesky, Trevor Ochs and Tom Doogan to graduation.

The good news for this year’s team is that the team’s second-leading scorer Ethan Riniker, who netted just over 12 points a game last year, is back. He will be joined by fellow seniors Jacob Taulman, McKenyon King and Charlie Harrington. The team is also hoping to get a lift from Mac Riniker, who will be a sophomore this season.

“My main goal for the season is, as a team, to stay together …not to separate, not to play as individuals, but to play as a team,” Riniker said. “That will give us our best chance at winning.”

Vandahl said he believes the key to success will be determined by the approach, attitude and competitive nature the players show in practice. That is where games will be won or lost.

But for Taulman and the other seniors on the team, it’s about more than just the final record.

“It’s my last year, so the biggest thing is to have fun,” Taulman said. “I want to enjoy the time I have with my brothers that I’m out there with, let the fans enjoy watching us and just enjoy my last season.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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