By LARRY VAUGHT
Lincoln County senior Riley Bodner still had two college visits to make — both out of state — before he planned to decide where he would continue his basketball career. However, because he would have had to do virtual tours of those schools and not able to meet players, coaches and professors, he decided to opt for a place he knew well.
The 6-8 Lincoln center has decided to play for coach Greg Mason and nearby Centre College, a place he has visited several times. Mason has also seen Bodner play about 15 times over the last two seasons.
‘I just didn’t want to go into college somewhere blind where I couldn’t visit,” Bodner said. “I know the coaches and players at Centre. I know people who go there. I have talked to the professors. I went on an overnight visit in September.”
Bodner played in 33 games for Lincoln last year and averaged 9.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots per game while shooting 56 percent from the field. He averaged 6.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game as a junior when Lincoln won the 12th Region Tournament.
Bodner says he “loves” the way Mason coaches.
“I think he is a great guy off the court, too, and I just love talking to him. Sometimes we just talk about movies and don’t even mention basketball,” Bodner said. “When he’s coaching, he doesn’t seem stressed out. He doesn’t get mad and yell but he’s still engaged in the game. He doesn’t point fingers. He doesn’t think it is because of one person that his team is up 20 or down 20.”
Centre loses its top two post players —Jacob Bates and Jakob Spitzer — off last season’s team that went 24-5 and reached the Division III NCAA Tournament. Bates led the team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.
“I would like to get in the rotation as quickly as I can but I know there is a lot of work I have to do,” Bodner said. “Knowing they lose two post players certainly opens a lot of doors for me and did help sway me a bit about picking Centre. If they were real heavy on bigs going into next year there would not be much reason for me to go there.”
Bodner believes his shot-blocking skills can provide a dimension the Colonels need.
“Something they didn’t really have last year was somebody who could protect the rim,” Bodner, who plans to major in economics, said. “That’s the best area of my game along with rebounding.”
He also says coming from a high school system under coach Jeff Jackson that relied on balanced scoring and not a star system will help him at Centre.
“I don’t feel like I will be walking on eggshells right off the bat,” he said. “I feel I can come in and be comfortable. I have played that style of ball for four years already.”
Bodner took almost three weeks off after the Patriots’ loss in the regional tourney but is now working out again. He’s doing 50 push-ups, sit-ups and squats each morning and night. His family is moving from Crab Orchard to Stanford and that will make it easier for him to “get out and run without getting hit by a car” than he’s had.
“I have a basketball goal at my house. It’s a little bent from where I dunk,” Bodner said.
Rather than practice his jump shot on a rim that is a little too low, he’s working more on post moves around the basket.
“No need to shoot and then have my shot be off on a 10-foot goal,” Bodner said. “But there is plenty I can do until I can actually get back in a gym.”