- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Calverton head boys basketball coach Rick Lagana certainly isn’t going to complain about his sore hands.
He’ll take it as a casualty of the job because it means finally Cole Rainier is on the court in a Calverton basketball uniform.
“When I go out there and do drills with him, the first thing I’ll tell him is, ‘Remember who you’re throwing the ball to’ because he can really whip it,” Lagana said before practice started Monday night. “He passes the ball like a Division I athlete. It’s coming at you with some force.”
And it’s coming with such force because Rainier is a college-bound lacrosse athlete he recently signed his letter of intent to attend Penn State University and also because it’s the first time in years that Rainier has been able to return to the basketball court.
“I’m really excited,” said Rainier, a resident of Pasadena. “Coach Rick and I have been talking the last couple years and I’ve really wanted to play for him because he’s a really great guy. He knows what he’s doing and he knows the set-ups, so I figured why not give it a shot and I’m loving it.”
Rainier had played two years of basketball at Northeast High School of Anne Arundel County when he transferred to The Calverton School during the winter of his sophomore year. He was reclassed he again entered his sophomore year when he arrived at the Huntingtown campus but broke his right index finger to his shooting hand shortly thereafter. He also suffered ligament damage.
He played a few days his sophomore year, but the finger bothered him enough to quit. The same thing happened when he tried to take the court last year.
“It hurt me a lot,” Rainier said of not being able to play. “[At first,] I loved basketball more than lacrosse. I’m happy to be back and loving practice and my teammates and working hard.”
Lagana has Rainier who said the finger “feels great” as a shooting/point guard and the senior has started feeling comfortable once again on the court.
“Uh, yes … a lot,” Rainier said when asked if he was rusty. “It’s just different, there’s a lot of motion going on, non-stop running. I’m working on my ballhandling. I was more of a passer than a superstar, so I was always looking for my teammates and if they’re open, I’m not going to be selfish. [But] I like the whole system, just the way [Lagana] runs practices, communication. ... I’m just liking everything around it, and just the fact I’m back in the basketball game. I missed it.”
“He’s an outstanding shooter and he’s shown flashes of being able to penetrate and score off the dribble and also he’s shown the ability to penetrate and find wide open people,” Lagana said. “He’s shown the skills you need to have in order to compete at a high level.”
And he’s done just that so far this season as he’s averaging 27.5 points through two games this season. He’s also hit 7 of 12 free throws and drained eight three-pointers. Against Options Charter School of Washington, D.C., he poured in a career-high 38 points, thanks in large part to seven treys.
“A shocker, it really was,” he said. “The first half it seemed like [everything I was shooting was going in]. A bunch of my teammates were looking at me for three-pointers and I was just hitting them. I was looking for my teammates the second half because I was being covered. I’d draw a man and just kick it out to my teammates.”
“He’s a reliable scorer, a dependable ballhandler at crunch time and we’re hoping for some rebounding out of the guard spot,” Lagana said. “He’s capable of getting six, seven rebounds of the guard position because he’s quick and athletic.”
But Lagana would also like to fine-tune Rainier’s game somewhat.
“Right now we are working on a couple different things,” Lagana said. “[The first is] not trying to make a great play every time he touches the ball and learn how to pace yourself. When you’re supremely confident and have Cole’s gifts, you have a tendency to try and make a great play every time you touch the ball and you end up wearing yourself down over the course of the ballgame.”
And Lagana said that Rainier will play a key role this season, and not just out on the floor.
“I would say that we have a number of talented young players, many of them underclassmen,” Lagana said, “so he’s instrumental from a leadership perspective and teaching the players.”