Freshman carves out major role for surging Wildcats

by: GREG ARTMAN / FILE - Freshman wing Zach Reichle has become a steady source of offense for the Wilsonville boys basketball team.Zach Reichle started the season with the element of surprise on his side.

Many opponents hadn’t seen the freshman before, perhaps making it easier for the Wilsonville boys basketball team to utilize him as an asset in the Northwest Oregon Conference.

“He’s like the best-kept secret in the league,” sophomore Sam Bullock said.

For now, maybe.

But probably not for long.

With an impressive array of offensive moves, a blossoming wit at the defensive end and a calm on-court demeanor that is uncharacteristic of many players his age, Reichle is essentially stomping all over his advantageous under-the-radar status.

Not that Reichle minds.

“I don’t want to sound cocky,” he said after the Wildcats crushed Estacada in their preseason finale Jan. 8. “But I know I can compete with these guys.”

The addition of the talented 6-foot-2 wing has been an undoubted blessing for Wilsonville, which will start the second half of its conference slate at 7:15 p.m. Feb. 7 on the road against Putnam.

Although the Wildcats (12-3, 5-0 in the NWOC) graduated several key starters from a squad that placed fourth at the state tournament last year, they were holding the No. 6 spot in the Class 5A rankings as of Jan. 29.

Reichle has plenty to do with that.

“Zach is a really highly skilled player,” coach Chris Roche said. “He’s a fantastic shooter already, and he’s going to get even better in that regard as he gets stronger. But I think a primary reason he has been able to jump right in and contribute as much as he has as a freshman is the fact that he loves basketball and really wants to improve and become the best player he can be.”

Roche has received major contributions from other first-year players in recent seasons, including Bullock and former point guard Kevin Marshall.

But Reichle isn’t just a regular starter — he’s also a primary scorer whose production could elevate Wilsonville as it seeks a sixth-straight trophy at the OSAA championships.

Reichle’s abilities were clearly evident during the Wildcats’ recent trip to Idaho, where he led the team in scoring in its three tournament games Jan. 2-4. He tallied 21 points against Kent-Kentridge, a highly ranked team from Washington state, outscored Sandpoint (Idaho) 14-12 in the first half as part of a 20-point outing and wrapped up the out-of-state event with 14 against Rathdrum-Lakeland (Idaho).

Reichle certainly made his presence known again at home Jan. 21, pouring in 25 points in Wilsonville’s 70-64 league win over Liberty in overtime.

“He doesn’t waste opportunities — whether it be to learn from coaching, compete in practice or adapt in a game,” Roche said. “For a freshman, his ability to focus on the things that matter and ignore the rest of the nonsense out there is pretty off-the-charts.

“He has much to learn still, and he knows this, but he is working on it, and he’s a hungry hombre. We love him. I think what I like most, though, is how well he fits in, how unselfish he is and how good a teammate he is. These are big and important strengths.”

by: BILL REICHLE / COURTESY - A young Zach Reichle plays on his first Fisher Price hoop. A son of two former athletes, he is now a starter and key contributor on the Wilsonville boys basketball team.

Basketball wasn’t forced on Reichle, but it’s easy to see how he developed such a strong affinity for the sport.

His father, Bill, played hoops, football and baseball at Benson High School in Portland before joining the Navy.

His mother, Sarah, was a three-sport athlete at South Salem High School who went on to join the women’s basketball team at the University of Portland.

His maternal grandfather played basketball at Oregon State. One uncle played at Willamette. Another played at Linfield College.

Settling in Wilsonville in 1994 after meeting at UP, Reichle’s parents didn’t have to think hard about how to entertain their young son.

“He was right around 1 when we put the ball in his hand on his first Fisher Price hoop,” his father said. “That’s when we gave him his first Duke Blue Devils ball, and he’s been a fan since.”

When Reichle was about 3 years old, his father became a Wilsonville Youth Sports coach and started him off with tee ball. Basketball followed. Football came after that.

One of the defining developments in Reichle’s hoops training came during third grade, when he joined Michael Abraham’s Portland-based Team Concept club program. He was ready for more in-depth instruction.

“The training, focus and competitiveness were all appealing to him, not to mention his love for Coach Michael,” Bill Reichle said. “We don’t have to drive him — he’s self-motivated and loves to work hard to get better. He regularly asks me to shag rebounds for him and puts up countless reps.

“He’s a competitor in every sense of the word. He never takes a play off and never wants to come out of the game. If the game is on the line, he wants to be the guy to take the final shot. On top of that, he’s as kind, polite, respectful and humble as can be. He learned long ago not to let his mouth, body language or attitude get in the way — he lets his game and the scoreboard do the talking.”

Such was the case in July, when Reichle’s club team was locked in a halftime tie in the title game of a Las Vegas tournament. Reichle scored 18 of his 30 points in the second half to lead his team to a championship in the final game of his eighth-grade season.

But although Reichle’s family lives just a few blocks from Wilsonville High School, it wasn’t a given that he would go there.

He was accepted at both Jesuit and Central Catholic. He also thought about attending West Linn, Lake Oswego or Lakeridge. The basketball programs at all five aforementioned schools compete in Class 6A, the state’s largest athletic classification.

“Ultimately, he chose to stay right here in Wilsonville once he realized the academics, athletics and coaches were every bit as good as the other schools,” his father said. “The deciding factor was definitely coach Chris Roche because Zach believes he can help him become the best player he can possibly be.”

With Roche, Abraham and his father as mentors, Reichle has become one of the Wildcats’ most efficient long-range shooters.

This past summer, Reichle won the under-18 division of the 3-point shooting contest at the first-annual Bridgetown Classic basketball tournament in Portland by making seven of 15 shots from distance in 45 seconds.

In the tournament game against Kentridge, Reichle drained five 3-pointers.

“I didn’t really have it when I was littler,” said Reichle, a stellar marksman from the corners. “Seventh-grade summer, I practiced a lot with my dad. I just try to get reps in every day.”

Further signs of Reichle’s potential were splattered throughout last summer.

He played significant minutes during the Wildcats’ offseason schedule, draining two threes in the first quarter en route to scoring 12 points against Woodburn.

“When he came in during summer ball, we all knew he was going to be really good,” Bullock said. “He blended great with everyone. He just does what he does. He’s really good. We knew he was going to be good.”

Initially, Reichle’s pronounced role for Wilsonville created a problem for Roche as he tried to relay instructions because the freshman has the same first name as senior teammate Zach Malvar. But the minor snag was solved with a new nickname.

“We already have a Zach, and it was becoming confusing communicating to them both in on-court situations,” Roche said. “So, Zach Reichle became ‘Zebo.’ The rest, as they say, may be history. I hope ‘Zebo’ sticks.”

The nickname makes Reichle easily distinguishable. Not that his play isn’t already having the same effect.

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