7-footer discovers basketball
By Frank Rusnak
Taking a lunch break from his day job in Crystal Lake two years ago, Marian Central coach Tom Les discovered something most basketball coaches can only dream of.
Walking the halls was 6'8" student Ryne Luecht, whom Les had never seen or heard of.
"I didn't play my freshman year because I didn't think I'd be able to keep up with my academics."
"When I first saw him I just thought, ‘How did I miss this guy?" Les said.
Luecht was a tall, gangly freshman who walked with slouched shoulders, was quiet and had never played organized basketball.
Already past midseason, it was too late to get Luecht on the team that year. But Les knew he wouldn't let his new project get away.
Now, a 7'1" 216-pound junior starter for the varsity team, Luecht is still a work in progress but has come an unbelievable length from the day Les first saw him. The shoulders are no longer slouched, his confidence is up, he is more outgoing and his basketball skills are immeasurably better.
"The amount of progress he's made is tremendous," Les said. "He could be a pretty big factor for us next year."
Luecht’s best days are ahead of him, Les said, but to realize his future one must look at his past.
Luecht never played little league, youth soccer or any type of competitive sports growing up.
His reason for not playing basketball when he first entered Marian Central?
"I didn't play my freshman year because I didn't think I'd be able to keep up with my academics," said Luecht, who holds a 3.0 grade-point average.
His sophomore year, he barely played because of knee problems from his growing. He is still not completely used to his body, as he said he is still growing and could top out at 7'3".
"I have a lot of fun playing the game," he said. "And I like the physical games because the normal guys we play aren't as big."
Marian Central, a Class A school in Woodstock, typically faces teams with centers that measure up to Luecht’s armpits.
Usually on the bench during crunch time, Luecht still needs to learn the intricacies of the game. But Les, whose brother Jim coaches at Bradley, knows that some college will be happy to take a chance on him.
"He's very coachable and will do anything I ask of him," Les said. "Schools will take a chance on a guy 7'0"."
As for the affable Luecht, it doesn't matter so much as to where he goes just as long as he's playing this new game he's grown to love.
"As long as I play in college I'll be happy," he said.
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