TWIN FALLS — The College of Southern Idaho men’s basketball program is going to look a lot different next season.
Jeff Reinert, the new head coach, has already been busy since he was hired in May, signing five players and hiring a new assistant coach. He’s looked as far as Washington, California and Australia for the players, but he didn’t have to go far for the assistant coach.
Former Vallivue High School coach Ryan Lundgren joined the staff this week after four seasons with the Falcons in Caldwell. He led them to three state tournament appearances and a 62-44 record. Before that, he worked as the director of basketball operations for Boise State’s men’s team for four years.
He came to the Golden Eagles through an open application process, and Reinert said Lundgren is exactly what he was looking for in an assistant coach.
“He’s got great passion, great energy and he’s extremely organized,” Reinert said. “He brings a lot of things to the table for us, and I think we hit a home run by hiring him.”
Lundgren said he’s had other chances to move up to the college coaching ranks, but he like where he was at in Vallivue and wasn’t in any rush to move on. But a chance to be a full-time assistant at a school as successful as CSI was too much to pass up.
“Obviously with a job like CSI with the prestigious school and basketball program that it is, and then you couple that with Coach Reinert, who I firmly believe in, you have a lot of success there,” Lundgren said. “An opportunity to work for a guy like that at a place like that in CSI was unique, and it was an automatic yes when I got the offer.”
Reinert and Lundgren offer a unique perspective to the Golden Eagles in that they’re both coming from high school jobs. Reinert coached at Santa Margarita Catholic in California for the last seven years, but he’s been a head and assistant coach at several college programs as well. He was the head coach at Utah Valley from 1994 to 2002 and was an assistant at Oregon State and Fresno State before going to Santa Margarita.
But Reinert said the things he looks for in an assistant coach translate to both the high school and college levels.
“I think that coaching is coaching,” he said “For me, it really didn’t matter that he was in high school, it mattered where he was from and the quality person that he is. The depth of the coaching experience for being so young was impressive.”
The two coaches are already all-in on recruiting players for next year. There’s about a six-week window before the staff returns to Twin Falls in August to prepare for the season.
“Our league is tough, our region is tough, and if we’re going to compete for national championships, which is the expectation at CSI and our expectation as a staff, we want to get high-level players,” Lundgren said. “The only way to do that is through building connections and leaving no stone unturned and just making sure you’re doing your homework on all these guys.”
The five-player recruiting class CSI has so far includes three point guards.
Stevie Smith is a 6-5 guard from Rainier Beach High School in Seattle. Reinert said he thought Smith was under-recruited by other teams, given that he was a three-year starter on a tremendous high school team. He averaged 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks per game last year.
Deng Dut, a 6-4 guard from Simonds Catholic High School in Melbourne, Australia, signed this month. He’s another long, athletic force who can handle the ball.
“Our goal is to be the best rebounding team in the country, so long athletic guys are really good to do that,” Reinert said. “But I think each individual kid has their strengths and weaknesses. Being an athlete on the floor is important. We also want guys with a good feel for the game.”
Kendall McHugh, a 6-0 point guard who played at Santa Margarita under Reinert, also signed.
One player who will help the Golden Eagles to their rebounding goal is Chayce Polynice, a 6-11 forward who is the son of longtime NBA player Olden Polynice.
Chayce has only been playing basketball for a few years, but he had 28 rebounds in one game last year. Reinert said there’s a lot of work to do to improve the big man’s game, but his ceiling is high.
“The future is so far ahead for him,” Reinert said. “In two years, it will be interesting to see who actually recruits him, because I think it’s going to be a lot of people.”
Athiaan Maijer Manyiel, a 6-7 forward from Christian Brother High School in Melbourne, Australia, will also join CSI’s team. Reinert said he can play multiple positions and could end up being a guard eventually.
Reinert is from Bellingham, Washington, and played college basketball for Gonzaga from 1983-85. He knows that area well, as well as Southern California where he coached high school, but he and his staff are willing to look anywhere and everywhere for the best players, including internationally.
Lundgren said his experience as a high school coach can recruiting high school kids to CSI.
“If you’re only in on the college game, you only see the recruiting side, but when you go to the high school side, you get to see the other side where your kids are being recruited and you’re seeing what you like about a college staff and what you don’t like about others,’ he said. “You can take some of that perspective and wisdom and apply it when you’re out recruiting kids from high school.”