East High vs Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln basketball

East High's Jailen Billings, left, and Van Rees celebrate their victory over Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln last season. Rees is within striking distance of the team's all-time rebound record.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | Maybe Van Rees was just born to rebound.

The Sioux City East post player isn’t 7-foot-1 like former Black Raider standout Adam Woodbury but he can rebound like him. By the end of the season he just might have surpassed him to become the school’s all-time leading rebounder.

Rees enters his final season with 607 career rebounds behind Woodbury’s 1,009, which is fitting given he has heard the comparisons most of his career.

“It would mean a lot to me just to be up there … and it would be crazy to be up there with him,” said Rees of the former Iowa Hawkeye center. “To be able to talk with him and brag with him at open gyms and stuff and mess around with him.

“A lot of people compare me to him but obviously he is a lot taller. We have kind of the same game play and I hope to reach the same goals he did. It gives me confidence that they are comparing me to such a great player and great person.”

East Coach Ras Vanderloo sees some similarities, but there are also key differences.

“They are both inside post players, they are both very competitive, they are both very good around the hoop,” he said. “Adam at 7-1 had an advantage but Van is a more athletic player in there. Van is a tenacious rebounder and he reminds me of his dad and uncles.

“If you remember the Rees family all the way back they were crazy rebounders and you see them on the record books. That is how (Van) goes after the ball. He has a knack for rebounding and knowing where the ball is coming off.”

Rees said that lessons from his father, Chad, have always driven him to go after the ball with determination.

“My dad always keyed on me to go get every rebound possible,” he said. “Still to this day he talks to me and says ‘if you go out in one half and get 10 rebounds, five of them offensive putbacks, that is a double-double at halftime.'

“I just have that mentality that I am going to go out there and I am going to work harder than everyone else, and I am going to try to work harder than everyone else and get those loose balls and rebounds.”

Rees led Class 4A in rebounds two years ago before finishing second last season.

The 6-foot-6 senior was seventh in the state last year in rebounds with 306 total and that number just might balloon over his final campaign as Rees has also gotten bigger. He ended last season at 188 pounds and will begin this season at 204.

“I feel a lot stronger, I feel I can jump a lot higher,” Rees said. “Last year when I jumped up to dunk the ball it wouldn’t come as easy, but this year it is a lot easier. Just pushing people and getting position I feel a lot stronger.”

It is something that Vanderloo hopes pays off for his entire squad as East looks to improve on last season’s third-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament.

“I used to not be a believer and now I am the all-time biggest believer that strength training is huge in what you do, and we have a guy that works with our entire team and has done an incredible job changing their bodies,” he said. “You can see their bodies have physically changed and it is only going to help them.”

Rees, who enters the season seventh in East history in scoring with 946 points, will do most of his damage around the rim, but he has worked to stretch his game with an eye on the next level.

“I have been battling inside my entire life, but at the next level I am obviously going to have to play more on the perimeter so I have been pushing a lot of ballhanding and shooting,” said Rees, who has averaged a double-double the past two seasons. “When I get the chance to step out I am going to make some stuff happen.”

Last year he averaged 20.8 points and 11.4 rebounds a game and scored the second-most points in a season in Black Raider history with 540.

Rees will begin his senior season still deciding where he will play basketball in college after recently decommitting from Wayne State College. It can be a stressful time for some, but Rees doesn’t see it impacting his play on the court.

“I feel like it wasn’t my time to commit yet and I have more to give,” he said. “I am not going to worry about it and I will play my game, and hopefully other stuff will come.”

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