Boys’ basketball looks to build off of 2019 Regional Championship


Ethan Taylor

Senior Paul Zilinskas (left) guards senior Jamir Truman (right) during a scrimmage on November 21.

After a 2018-2019 season in which the Bulldogs finished with 28 wins and won a Regional Championship, expectations are high for the reigning Metro Suburban Conference champions in the 2019-2020 season.

The Bulldogs lost all five starters from last year, but once again have a strong senior class to carry the load. Richards High School transfer Paul Zilinskas heads a deep 2020 class that includes guard Nate Schoditsch, guard Luke Gentile, forward Jamir Truman as well as sophomore John Paul Hanley, brother of former guard and 2019 RB graduate Patrick Hanley.

After a year in which the Bulldogs made the eighth most three-point field goals in IHSA history, they expect similar numbers to follow this season. The Bulldogs retain All-State three point shooter Ryan Gaynor among a strong class of sharpshooting seniors.

“We are a great shooting program. Every player on the court can shoot. Our center might even be one of our best shooters,” said Jack Pitts, a junior point guard for the Bulldogs.

The team also put in more than their fair share of work in the off-season, in hopes for a long season that could possibly last into late March, with a potential trip to the state finals.

“We participated in two fall leagues, we hit the weight room three times a week and we had open gym twice a week, so a lot of work has been put in,” said Pitts when discussing the preparation put into place for the upcoming season.

Although the Bulldogs are moving down from the class 4A state playoffs and entering class 3A, their schedule is by no means any easier.

“We play Fenwick and LT, two rivalry games, and we were very fortunate to be invited to the Team Rose shootout at Mt. Carmel as well,” said head varsity basketball coach Mike Reingruber.

Throughout last season, the Bulldogs started five seniors nearly every game, leaving this year’s team little experience in terms of minutes played on varsity, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t put in their due time to be prepared for the upcoming season.

“I believe the returning seniors are 100% prepared for this, after spending last season practicing with the now graduated seniors, as well as participating in multiple fall and summer leagues,” said Reingruber when discussing how prepared the new, inexperienced seniors are.

Along with the work the returning seniors have been putting in, newcomer Paul Zilinskas has intensely prepared for the season, resulting in multiple college basketball scholarships before his senior year even began.

“We have a very cohesive group of seniors this season, with newcomer Paul Zilinskas being a major contributor on both sides of the ball, and sort of becoming our go-to-guy,” said Reingruber.

The Bulldogs kick off the season on November 26 against Excel Academy of Englewood as part of the Bill Vandemerkt Thanksgiving tournament, an annual tournament hosted by RB on the week of Thanksgiving. The tournament includes schools such as Excel, Morton, Oak-Park River-Forest and Kenwood Academy.