Two years ago, Austin Rentfrow made his first start for Marshall County as a 6-5 sophomore. At Ballard Memorial’s Green Palace, he hit eight of 10 shots from the floor and finished with a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The auspicious debut pegged Rentfrow as a promising talent in the First Region, and with two full years as a starter under his belt, Rentfrow returns to Ballard Memorial with the Marshals tonight to open his senior season.
Rentfrow has grown, physically. He’s two inches taller, a bit heavier and stronger.
He has grown, experience-wise, with two years as a varsity starter under his belt and a summer playing AAU basketball with the Louisville Magic.
He has not grown complacent.
“I’ve just got to improve my ball handling skills in order to drive in,” Rentfrow said in assessing his capabilities.
He noted that he had some success putting the ball on the floor in a scrimmage against Christian County, “and I thought I was effective because it opened everybody up and the point guards had a shot every time,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep working on my ball handling.”
Rentfrow, primarily a back-to-the-basket post-up player the past two years, knows he has to expand his game this year.
“Last two years we’ve had great players, great point guards,” he said. “I think this year we’re going to have to get it into the post a lot.”
And Rentfrow is going to have to move out of the post more than he has in the past.
Fellow senior Landon Taylor returns for his second season as starting point guard.
“Austin’s role is very important this year,” Taylor said. “He’s been putting in tons of work in the weight room and practice, and we’ll stick around after practice and work on free throws. He’s been shooting some 3s here and there. He needs to work on his dribbling. I think he can definitely put the ball on the floor if we need him to.”
The Marshals’ third senior, Drew Warnick, echoed Taylor’s observations.
“This year, we’re definitely going to have to be playing through [Rentfrow],” Warnick said. “This summer, he’s been stepping up his game outside. Even at the 3-point line, he’s hit a few in some games. He does some good things for us besides being in the paint.”
The AAU experience, Rentfrow said, was valuable.
“I played with Quintin Snyder [of Louisville Ballard, a University of Louisville signee],” he said. That improved my game a lot, because he depended on me in the post. I just did my post work off his offense.”
Besides the three seniors, junior Mason Wooten brings a good measure of experience as a part-time starter last season. D.J. Pigg saw action in 26 games as a freshman last year and emerged as the team’s third-best long-range shooter, hitting 16 of 46 3-point shots. Only senior Chase Clark and Taylor had more.
Collin Travis, a 6-4 junior, will be the primary back-up for Rentfrow, who knows he will need to avoid getting in foul trouble.
Even more important than the Marshals’ individual attributes, Warnick said, is their emerging cohesiveness.
“Last year our chemistry wasn’t as good as we’d have liked it to be,” Warnick said. “But this year’ we’ve grown a lot closer. On and off court, we’re always together. We do things on weekends, go watch movies, just simple things, stay close to each other.”
After tonight’s opener, the Marshals gear up for Hoop Fest action. They play Dyersburg, Tenn., on Thursday and meet Carbondale, Ill., in a Saturday game.