SIOUX CITY | Van Rees wasn’t ready for his high school basketball days to come to a close.
And now, he faces an uncertain future. Limited to nine points and six rebounds in Wednesday’s 75-47 first-round Class 4A state tournament loss to Cedar Falls, the 6-foot-6 East High senior forward is unsure where the sport will take him.
He had initially signed early with NCAA Division II Wayne State, but after talking to his parents, he de-committed. The move surprised East Coach Ras Vanderloo, who later saw the three-year starter work harder than ever on the crafts of inside offense and battling on the boards in hopes of offers from larger programs.
“We thought it wasn’t the time for me to make the decision,” said Rees. “They thought I should wait out the season and see what happens.”
So what happens next for an athlete who in his final season tallied norms of 17.3 points and 8.6 rebounds? Wait and see. Second all-time in East history with 1,345 points and 806 rebounds, Rees brings a solid work ethic to both areas.
“I’m going to talk to my family and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “It’s all about what God wants me to do. I’ll decide when the time comes. It’s about what fits me, where I want to play, if I want to play. You never know. I’ll talk to my parents and see where the journey takes me.”
“He told me the same thing,” said Vanderloo. “Time will tell. He’s going to have a few choices. Whatever he wants to do, I’ll support him 100 percent. So whatever he decides, I support him. I’ll try to help him with anything I can do. He’s done a lot for us. We need to do that for him.”
Whoever receive Rees’ talents will get an athlete who started the last three years for teams that combined for a 60-12 record. As a junior, he won first-team 4A all-state honors, averaging 20.8 points and 11.8 rebounds on the 23-3 team that took third place at the state tournament.
The 540 points and 306 rebounds he accumulated that season each ranked second on East’s single-season charts. The lessons he learned as a rebounder, first from his dad, Chad, and then from his older brother, Jaylen, who graduated in 2016 with 461 points and 392 rebounds, paid off.
“Wherever the ball goes, just go get it,” said Rees, who played along with Jaylen for two seasons. “It’s something my dad taught me and pushed me to do. So I did. My brother was a rebounder. I learned a lot of his technique. He taught me to make contact first, don’t let them make contact first with you because then, they get into better position. You make contact first, then you hope the ball comes your way.”
As a prep, Rees recorded 36 point/rebound double-doubles, half of which came a year ago. He was held to only six as a senior, but East, en route to a second straight Missouri River Activities Conference title, also had quality rebounders like 6-5 senior Sam Hildahl (4.7 rpg), 6-2 junior Aidan Vanderloo (4.0) and 6-6 junior reserve Javonte Keck (3.8).
“He had a knack for the ball,” said Vanderloo. “He knew where the ball was going to come off the rim. He always positioned himself in places that increased his chance for the rebound. Some people just have it inside of them. Some people, you have to teach it to them. He definitely had it. You own that ball. Go get it. It’s yours.”
Rees was a 58.4 percent shooter in his four seasons. He had lifetime averages of 15.2 points and 9.1 rebounds.
“I tell you what, we really knew when he was younger, he was going to be a good player,” said Vanderloo. “He just got better and better. He was able to score with the ball inside, and rebound the way he does. All of those Rees boys could rebound the ball like crazy. He proved that over time. His effort every night was good.”
Vanderloo went as far as saying there will be an initial shock in the first practice of the 2018-19 season when he’ll wonder where Rees is. Memories of his work ethic will remain.
Rees’ feelings are mutual.
“A lot of good memories,” he said. “I had a lot of good teammates throughout the years. I’m sad it’s over, but it was a great time.”