When Dave Rieker began his first season as boys’ basketball coach at Cardinal Stritch Catholic four years ago, he discovered a team that was high on fashion but not much else.
“The guys always wanted to wear the headbands and wristbands to look cool,” he said. “I told them you don’t get respect by the way you dress. You earn it by the way that you play on the court.”
Rieker has seen steady improvement since his first season. The team finished 13-11 last season after winning just a single game during his inaugural season. A lot of the team’s success hinged around the development of junior Austin Adams.
“Austin has the potential to be one of the best to ever play at Cardinal Stritch,” Rieker said. “This school used to have a great wealth of basketball talent and, for whatever reason they hit that lull there over the last few years. We are hoping that this group reverses that trend.”
Adams has built a reputation as one of the area’s best high school players. He has primarily played in the post during his first two seasons, going up against some of the Toledo Area Athletic Conference’s best big men. But this season, he has made a greater effort to showcase all of his talents after being moved to guard to start the season.
“I got moved and I have worked really hard on my outside shooting from mid-range and long range,” he said. “I have noticed a huge improvement since I have been working on my shooting ability. I am shooting like 30 or 40 percent higher than I had been previously.”
Adams worked out the entire summer, putting in time on his own in the weight room and on his personal court at home. He also played on the AAU circuit, which he credits to helping quite a bit with his improvement from year to year.
“The talent in those (AAU) games is unbelievable,” he said, “I think it showed me where I was supposed to be talent wise. It showed me what I was good at and what I needed to improve upon. It was an incredible challenge.”
Coach Rieker has been most impressed with Adams’s improvement as a leader and improving his work ethic.
“When he practices hard, everyone knows that they better as well,” the Cardinals’ coach said. “He’s matured a lot on and off the court. He has always been a good kid but he really understands what it means to be a leader now on this team.”
Adams hopes all of his self-improvement will help his chances of landing a scholarship offer to continue playing basketball in college. Since his freshman year, he has attracted plenty of attention from universities from around the country. He has heard from several schools including the local colleges, BGSU and UT.
“(All of the changes) definitely will help because there aren’t a whole lot of 6-3 post players in college,” he said with a laugh.
While the process of recruitment for college can be a daunting burden, Adams has the perfect person to turn to advice — his head coach.
Dave Rieker was a high school star himself at Findlay High School before playing at the University of Toledo under legendary coach Bobby Nichols.
“I am probably one of the few people who have been the recruiting process and I try and help him out with that a little bit,” Rieker said.
With Adam’s and the team’s improvement, Rieker said the time has come to put all of the pieces together.
“We just want to win now,” he said. “I tell our players that each one of them has to do their job and play hard. If we do those things, we have a pretty good chance to win a lot of our games.”
Adams said he and his teammates know people don’t expect much from them this season and feel they can play the role of spoiler as the seasons continues.
“I feel we are disrespected by a lot of people to be honest,” he said. “We finished third in the TAAC last year and we can play just as good as any another team when we execute and perform. I think we can shock the world and shock the TAAC.”
Rieker agreed with his player.
“It’s something we stress all the time,” he said in regards to a TAAC championship. “We have an agenda to keep and that is a TAAC championship. We are going for it.”
While Adams still has a lot of basketball to be played in his high school career, Rieker hopes that Adams’s legacy at Cardinal Stritch can have lasting impact beyond what statistics he registers. If the junior fulfills his dream of playing at a (NCAA) Division I school, Rieker feels it will attract more attention to the Stritch program.
“Most people go to St. John’s, Central and Whitmer to play basketball because they can go to college. If he does go (to a Division I school) and people see him in the paper and on TV signing that letter, they will see he is from Cardinal Stritch and that is very important.”
Cardinal Stritch Catholic 6-foot-3 Austin Adams scores in the Cardinals’ 53-52 loss to visiting Maumee Valley Country Day. (Press photo by Doug Karns/KateriSchools.org)
Cardinal Stritch Catholic 6-foot-3 Austin Adams scores as Northwood sophomores Jacob Vickers (13) and Jayson Johnson (23) look on. (Press photo by Doug Karns/KateriSchools.org)