G-R boys turn up the tempo

Rebels basketball team seeking return to the state tourney

Junior guard Caleb Egesdal guards teammate Austin Vaverka during a team practice earlier this month. The Gladbrook-Reinbeck Rebels return four of their five starters (including Egesdal) that fought their way to the 1A substate championship game last season. Photos by Darvin Graham

With an accomplished 2020-21 season under their belt and in the rearview, the Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys basketball team are ready to roll into 2022.

The Rebels concluded a four-loss season in a heartbreaking Substate Championship game against South Winneshiek, just a few points shy of the state tournament.

G-R Head Coach Scott Kiburis believes his team is primed to take another step forward, though room for improvement always remains.

“This year we’d really like to dictate the tempo of each game to match the speed at which we like to play,” Kiburis said. “If we can do that consistently and make progress in becoming a better defensive team, I think we’ll see success.”

Though the playoff loss was a bitter pill to swallow, the Rebels were left with plenty of hope for the future knowing only one starter would be graduating off the team.

All-State guard William Kiburis returns as a leader among the Gladbrook-Reinbeck Rebels team this season. The 6-4 junior guard will pose a threat to opposing defenses as tall mismatch on the outside and as a player that can score from outside and underneath the hoop.

G-R knew they would be bringing back 6-4 all-state guard William Kiburis who led the team in scoring at 19 ppg. Kiburis proved to be an all-around asset as a sophomore last season, contributing in nearly every stat category; defending, rebounding, shooting, driving and bringing the ball up the court.

Also back in the fold this year for his senior season is first team all-conference selection, Tristen Sanford-Anders. The 6-5 center was a dominating force underneath the hoop last season, leading his team in rebounds (8 rpg), while also averaging 10.2 ppg and getting to the free throw line the second most among his teammates.

Sanford-Anders will have help from two other athletic big men underneath in 6-3 junior Logan Giesking and 6-2 freshman forward Drew Eilers. Giesking was part of a three-man bench rotation last season seeing plenty of varsity minutes in the post. His on-the-court experience coupled with time spent as a five-sport athlete last year should give him the tools needed for growth as a power forward.

Eilers meanwhile is just checking in to the program as a freshman but has already hit the ground running earning starting minutes on the G-R varsity baseball team last summer and quarterbacking part of the varsity football season this fall.

At the guard position the Rebels bring back a lot of firepower in returning starters Caleb Egesdal and Luke Riffey. Both juniors were key components of last season’s starting rotation offering speed and athleticism, also as multi-sport athletes with plenty of varsity experience under their belt.

With the departure of the Rebels second-leading scorer Dylan Riffey, Coach Kiburis said he looks toward both junior guards to fill in the scoring gap left by Riffey the elder. Egesdal in particular showed the most inclination toward three-point shooting last season and should add spacing and scoring from long-distance for the Rebels.

Further down the roster, the backcourt depth will be bolstered by returning guard Isaac Clark. Clark was the only guard to see much varsity time off the bench last season and will look to have an expanded role in his sophomore campaign. At 6-1, and with a season of varsity quarterback experience to his name, Coach Kiburis will have another scorer at his disposal to rotate with or spell Riffey and Egesdal.

One new face to the Rebels lineup is sophomore transfer guard Austin Vaverka. Last season Vaverka was the starting point guard for the GMG Wolverines, leading the team in both assists and steals.

Adding a starting point guard with speed, ball handling skills and intensity on defense to the G-R bench will make the Rebels one of the deepest teams in the NICL conference to start the season.

Kiburis said with all the returning players on the team, he’s felt practices have taken off quicker this year than in the past.

On paper Gladbrook-Reinbeck might appear the favorite among NICL West competitors in preseason polling. Though plenty of talent remains from last year’s competitive three-way race between G-R, Grundy Center and South Hardin.

The Grundy Center Spartans finished 8-2 in conference play and were eliminated in the substate semifinals by Meskwaki. The Spartans have since graduated three of their top five players but again look to be a formidable force in the NICL West as deep rosters have become commonplace in central Grundy County.

South Hardin defeated the Rebels twice in the regular season, but were bounced in the first round of the 1A playoffs. The Tigers graduated three of their five top players from last year’s squad. Time will tell what shape the team will be in as they enter the season under first-year head coach John Phillips.

The Rebels got their season going Thursday on the road at Wapsie Valley and will head to Eldora next Tuesday for a showdown with South Hardin.

Ahead of the winter break the boys team will play home games on Dec. 10, 11, 14, 20 and 21.