Micah Rieke knew that he would be interested in applying for the Cascade boys basketball head coaching job after he learned that Paul Fraker had tendered his resignation earlier in the year, but there was one big obstacle in the way — he needed a teaching job in Leavenworth in addition to the coaching position.
About a week before school started in September, Rieke, the head boys basketball coach at Cedarcrest, received a call from Cascade athletic director Elia Ala’ilima-Daley, who delivered most welcome news: a physical education position had opened at Icicle River Middle School. Rieke immediately accepted both jobs and made plans to return home.
Rieke grew up in Leavenworth and starred athletically at Cascade, graduating in 1998. He played basketball at Pacific Lutheran University, then became a graduate assistant at Eastern Washington University for two years while working on attaining his masters’ degree. From there, he went on to Cedarcrest, where he was the head coach for the past four years.
But all along, he knew that if circumstances would allow, he’d absolutely love the opportunity to coach at his alma mater. That chance has arrived, and he couldn’t be happier.
“Coming home is a dream come true,” he said. “The stars aligned and it all fell into place. I was satisfied at Cedarcrest; it’s a great community, and we were building a program, and I felt sad to leave. But at the same time, I knew that literally the only job that I would want to have besides Cedarcrest would be Cascade.”
Because Rieke was a relatively late hire, he knows that he’s going to have to work especially hard to get to know his players, install offensive and defensive systems that tailor to their strengths, and learn about his new Caribou Trial League foes.
But he’s optimistic that he can build the Kodiaks — who return just two players with varsity experience after finishing in fourth place in the CTL and seeing their season end in the bi-district tournament a year ago — into contenders.
“I’ve seen a lot of familiar faces around town,” he said. “I’m coaching players whose parents I used to watch play in high school. I feel very comfortable with the community and the relationships that I’ve built. I’ve been welcomed back with open arms. I almost feel like I haven’t left.”
In order to accelerate his learning curve, Rieke has relied on his brother, Kevin, who coached the Cascade boys team from 1998 to 2003 and is now the the statkeeper for the Kodiaks boys and girls squads.
“He’s very knowledgeable,” Rieke said. “He’s helped me to get to know the players; he’s been to all of the games, and he’s given me an idea of their strengths and weaknesses. He’s definitely been a great sounding board for me.”
Reloading for another run
Cashmere spent a good portion of last season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press 1A state poll, won the CTL and advanced to the state semifinals. The Bulldogs lost three all-league players to graduation, but head coach Keith Boyd feels that his team has more than enough talent to make another deep postseason run.
Cashmere will be led by its two returning starters, both all-leaguers from a year ago — point guard Dylan Boyd and post Coleman McElroy. In addition, Boyd will rely heavily on the contributions of four players that didn’t get a lot of playing time last year — guards Jordan Christensen and Mason Elliott, post Conor Badgley and forward Dawson Taylor.
Also, Boyd has high hopes for wing Casey Ruether, who was a starter as a freshman but missed all of last season due to shoulder surgery. Ruether suffered a shoulder injury in the Bulldogs’ state playoff game against Cle Elum/Roslyn earlier this month, but should be ready to return to the court next week.
Boyd has some concerns about his team’s rebounding — the graduated Cooper Elliott was one of the Bulldogs’ leading boardsman last season. But the Bulldogs are a solid preseason pick to win the CTL once again, and perhaps advance to the state tournament for the third consecutive year.
“The kids really want to go back to state,” Boyd said. “They understand what it takes to get there, how to prepare and how to sacrifice to get to that point. They’re hungry. The first thing that has to happen is the kids have to be a team and work hard together unselfishly, and so far these kids are doing that. We have high expectations, and hopefully things will work out.”
Amsel returns to the court
Chelan might be the team that is in the strongest position to challenge the Bulldogs for the league title. Last season, the Goats were never able to recover from losing star Michael Amsel Jr. to injury, then relocation, and saw their season end in the district tournament.
Amsel is back for this season, though, and coach Joe Harris is expecting that the senior can use his unique skill set to become a difference-maker once again.
“He’s certainly a game-changer,” Harris said. “Everybody knows that with him on the floor, we play a completely different style — we can force the tempo on offense and defense. He went through a lot of stuff to get back for (the end) of the football season, and one thing that we’ve talked about an awful lot is that (basketball) will be a great outlet for him. He can get back on the court and not have to worry about proving anything to anybody.”