WOODLAWN (WSIL) -- Woodlawn’s Race Rynski had written off playing college basketball. He was planning on attending University of Southern Indiana, but when his former high school coach Brian Gamber accepted the head coaching position at Rend Lake, well, his plans changed.
"I was planning on going to USI for four years to study engineering," said Race Rynski. "Then I found out that coach had gotten the job, and a little after that, and he contacted me and was asking if I wanted to play and didn’t want to mess my plans up. But I was like, 'Yeah, I would love to have another chance to go back out there and play and have fun,' and I was just blessed and thankful to have the opportunity."
For Gamber, recruiting Rynski to play for him again was a no brainer.
"You know as his senior year progressed, there is no doubt there were teams that were interested in him to come and play," said Rend Lake Head Coach Brian Gamber. "He had that kind of a senior year, and he has that kind of ability. So for me, I just wanted to make sure he knows, 'Hey listen, don’t feel pressured if you want to go to Southern Indiana, that is great. But if you want to keep playing, I felt like it’s a great opportunity at a really good place.' He is going to know the system. He is going to be ahead of the game, and the kids we are bringing in, Race fits in well with what we are trying to do. So that’s why I decided to ask him. Hopefully, he doesn’t feel pressured, hopefully him and his family understand that I feel like it is something he would want to do, and if he does, I want to be the one to give him that opportunity."
"In my head, I was like yes I want to do this 100%," said Rynski. "After season ended, it was probably like three months, I was like, 'Man I’m starting to miss this.' Me and my friends would get to playing up at the school and stuff, and man, I was like, 'Man, I want to be back out there playing,' and then when I got that call, I was like, I wanted to do it bad, but I had to run it by my parents because I had plans to go to USI, and we had gone pretty far with that, but they agreed 100%."
The road to playing in college hasn’t been easy. Rynski had setbacks he was forced to overcome.
"Race had a significant injury his junior year," said Gamber. "I mean, he missed his whole junior year, and so this is not just me saying this because he played for me, and I’m obviously biased towards Race because I think he is a good player and a good person, but had Race not done that, he would have had a lot more schools after him as far as wanting to play college basketball."
"That really gave me motivation to work harder and be better and as much as I hate to say it, I think that injury did make me better and made me want to work harder and just be better my senior year," said Rynski.
For Rynski, this opportunity to play at the next level is something he couldn’t pass up.
"I started playing when I was really little, probably like 3 or 4," said Rynski. "It's always been a dream, like I really want to play college basketball no matter the level. Like tell my kids one day that I played college basketball, and I think it's honor to have the chance you say."
Rynshki isn’t the only local player recruited by Gamber. He will be among several from our area high schools.
"You know Race and these other guys from southern Illinois that were signing, you know we are not signing them just because they are from Southern Illinois," said Gamber. "I think that is the misconception, 'Well, he's from Southern Illinois, that’s why Rend Lake signed him.' We’re signing them because they are really good players and just happen to be from Southern Illinois, which we want to keep. So all these guys, they have earned all of this, and I know, I mean, Race can speak on this on my behalf, I wouldn’t recruit you and sign you to play if I didn’t think you could play."