Area hoopsters commit to Division II schools
Anyone familiar with girl’s basketball within the New Ulm area knows of the sport’s high talent level and competitiveness.
For some, it is probably no surprise that the New Ulm area has three girl’s basketball players who have committed to playing collegiately at the Division II level next year. Not only will they all be playing at the same level in college, but they will also be playing in the same division of the same conference.
New Ulm High School’s Meleah Reinhart committed to Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Springfield’s Vishe’ Rabb committed to Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop’s Halley Busse committed to Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. All three schools are in the South Division of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).
Even though they all go to different schools and will continue doing so, their paths to Division II women’s basketball were not all that different.
Ever since she was an eighth-grader, Busse has been one of the most talked-about players in southern Minnesota.
The GFW guard became the school’s all-time leading scorer as a junior, amassing 2,490 career points while averaging more than 20 points per game in her four years as a starter on varsity for the Thunderbirds. Of course, it only stands to reason that the recruiting process for Busse turned out to be quite stressful.
“A lot of schools had a lot to offer, so it was deciding between what I liked more between this or that,” Busse said. “Am I picking the right school? Is this right for me? Will I enjoy four years here? But it was also very exciting to see what was all out there.”
Busse was getting looks from numerous Division III and Division II schools, but Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska, wooed her when she talked to head coach Chris Kielsmeier.
“At GFW, me and my coach [Ryan Jacobson] are real close – I can go tell him anything, we talk about a lot more than even basketball,” Busse said. “I tried making sure I would find someone that I could view as a father.”
In their talks, Kielsmeier was adamant that he would bring out the best in Busse instead of the usual promises of how soon she will get to play like most coaches make.
Along with Rabb and Reinhart, Busse was one of the standout starters in MN Rise, a premier AAU basketball program for both southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.
“Vishe’ and I played together two years, but the fact that we were all from a small town, there’s something different about it,” Busse said. “You just have a different attitude and way of thinking about the game.
“When we all played together, it was so different. We were all on the same page, we all knew what was going to happen next, we knew how our teammates were going to react. It was a perfect bunch of girls.”
All three will see each other throughout their college years, especially Busse and Rabb, who have been going toe to toe for years as Tomahawk Conference foes.
“It’s always the most fun game because it’s competitive, yet you can feel that it’s still fun and upbeat,” Busse said of playing Rabb. “There’s no hard feelings, it’s a competitive basketball game. It’s really fun.”
Rabb made a name for herself outside of southern Minnesota two years ago when Springfield made it to the Class A state girl’s basketball tournament. The high-flying, press-breaking fast-break layup machine has tallied 1,043 points and 505 rebounds for her career with one season to play for the Tigers.
Despite getting numerous offers in both volleyball and track and field, Rabb decided to stick to basketball.
“In the back of my head, I always wanted to somehow be able to continue my basketball career,” Rabb said. “I spent extra time in my other sports, but for sure basketball was No. 1.”
Akin to Busse and Reinhart, Rabb had gotten a lot of interest from Division III and Division II schools from the upper Midwest. Thanks to the tournaments they attended as part of MN Rise, they got a lot of exposure to college scouts that was first overwhelming.
“There were a couple places where you knew you would go and there was going to be a line from one court all the way down to Court 5 of coaches,” Rabb said. “It was kind of stressful before, but after I got more and more looks this AAU season, I was like, ‘OK, OK, I can pick where I want to go now.'”
Rabb soon narrowed her decision down to two schools – MSU-Moorhead and Augustana – that she had heavily considered. But in the end, Rabb picked Augustana for one reason that was a little different than being persuaded by coaches and current players.
“I took one step onto the main entrance of campus and I thought, ‘Wow, I could see myself going here,'” Rabb said. “It was really cool. My mom said, ‘Yeah, I could see us coming here and visiting.’ It’s a city but it also had a town feeling in some places. It was kind of what I wanted anyway.”
Rabb will be able to continue her competitive rivalry with Busse in college with Augustana and Wayne State playing each other regularly. Although this time, they will be facing each other as Vikings and Wildcats instead of Tigers and Thunderbirds.
“It’s super funny to me because we’ve always had to play against each other and we’ve only had one or two years that we all actually got to play together, so it’s going to be more years of us having to face off again,” Rabb said. “Any of that competition stuff stays on the court anyway. Right when the game’s done, we’re all buddy-buddy right after that.”
Reinhart has been one of the instrumental figures in helping the New Ulm girl’s basketball team end a culture of losing. The Eagles had lost 52-straight games spanning three seasons before Reinhart took charge, helping turn it into a contender in the Big South Conference and Section 2AAA.
As a junior, Reinhart averaged 20.1 points per game and has scored 1,032 for her career with one season to play. Her fearless and aggressive style of play has made her a prime target for college scouts at both the Division III and II levels.
However, Southwest Minnesota State University and first-year coach Tom Webb managed to capture Reinhart’s attention and win her over.
“He has the coaching style of my high school coach, my dad [Dan],” Reinhart said. “He’s a lot like my dad. He reminds me a lot of him and the way he wants to coach and the way he wants to play – it just reminded me a lot of my high school team.”
Other schools that expressed deep interest in recruiting Reinhart included the University of Sioux Falls of Division II as well as St. Thomas and Gustavus of Division III.
This past AAU season, Reinhart was a starter along with Busse and Rabb for MN Rise.
“We had a really good AAU season this year compared to last year when Halley wasn’t playing with us, or I didn’t even play with Vishe’ last year,” Reinhart said. “All three of us together, we played really well. It was a different variety of guard play.”
Busse served as the point guard whereas Reinhart and Rabb were the forwards who could both shoot and drive, making up a trio that turned out to be quite deadly.
“It was awesome to be able to play with them,” Reinhart said. “Knowing I’ve competed against them, I’d much rather be playing with them.”