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Wheeling Central duo inks D-I hoop letters of intent

WHEELING — Wheeling Central has seen a lot of great players grace its gym floor. Monday, two of them made their choices of where the next destination will be.

Basketball standouts Eden Gainer and Kaylee Reinbeau put pens to paper and signed their National Letters of Intent during a ceremony held at Wheeling Central Catholic High School.

Gainer will take her talents to Columbia University, while Reinbeau will play at Bucknell University.

“This is really special and I have been working on this my whole life,” Gainer said. “My goal has always been to be able to go to college and play basketball and now I can say that I’ve done that.

“I started playing with the West Virginia Thunder and they are a pretty elite team. I was just hoping that I would be a D-I, because in the past, that program has had so many players come out of that.”

Her Thunder and Maroon Knights teammate was just as excited.

“This is unbelievable,” Reinbeau said. “I look around and see all these people that are here and all these people that got me to where I am today. I am so thankful that I have been given this opportunity and I am definitely going to make the most of it.”

Gainer and Reinbeau have been linked together since both walked onto the floor as freshmen. They have played an integral part in the Wheeling Central success the past few seasons, including in 2018 when, as sophomores, they helped lead the Maroon Knights to a state championship with a victory against St. Joe Central.

In that fateful championship game, Reinbeau had a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds. She calmly knocked down two free throws at the end to seal a victory.

Gainer scored 12 points against the Irish.

Despite a young, inexperienced team last season, as well as a difficult blow when fellow teammate Hannah White was injured and lost for the season, the two put the team on their backs and led Wheeling Central to a state semifinal before falling to eventual state champion St. Joe.

Last season, Gainer scored 21.2 points per game to lead the Maroon Knights to go along with 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.9 steals. She was named first team all-state by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association and first team All-Valley.

“I saw how dedicated Taylor Duplaga and Riley Bennington were to playing basketball and I wanted to be like them,” Gainer said. “I was able to come in a sophomore and win a state title.”

Gainer, the sweet-shooting guard, had originally committed to American, and while she loved the coaching staff, decided Columbia would push her more academically.

The Lions, based in New York, play in the Ivy League are are coached by Megan Griffith.

“I loved the academic part of it and really loved the coaches and staff,” Gainer said. “It was a nice group. The players, I had an official visit, and they were so fun and personable and it made me so excited to go there.

“They haven’t said much about playing time, but I am hoping I will be to come in and help.”

“Playing defense at the next level is going to be harder. There are going to be quicker girls and I need to work on being able to be tougher.”

Reinbeau was a double-double machine with 16.8 points and 10.2 rebounds. She added 10.2 assists and 3.4 steals. She was named first team All-Valley and second team all-state.

She loved Bucknell from the moment she stepped on campus.

The Bison, located in Lewisburg, Pa., are coached by Trevor Woodruff and compete in the Patriot League.

“With their academics, it was really important to find a school that catered to me as well,” Reinbeau said. “Aside from the athletics, that was what really made the decision for me.

“I don’t think about being a Division I athlete, I just think about continuing to play the sport that I love. I am excited to be playing with all new teammates, but I am also going to miss my Wheeling Central teammates who I love.”

Reinbeau, who also considered Eastern Illinois, has been a force in the paint for Wheeling Central. But also has shown the ability to step back and hit a jumper or even a 3-pointer.

She said the coaches at Bucknell view her as a shooting forward.

“I need to work on stuff in the lane, especially on both sides, work on finishing transition layups and being very fundamentally solid,” she said. “Footwork, getting mentally and physically stronger are important. I am going to be going up against girls that I have never played against. They are going to be older than me, taller than me, stronger than me, but I know I can do it. I will just work on the things I need to get better at and keep improving through the years.”

As camp opened last week for the 2019-20 season, both girls are excited to get this decision out of the way before the season begins as they look to complete their stellar careers with one last run for a title in Charleston.

Wheeling Central coach Penn Kurtz has been there through their careers and sees nothing but big things for this duo at the next level.

“They have both worked extremely hard and put in so much gym time on their own,” Kurtz said. “When they came in as freshmen, there were high expectations, but they grew and developed, they really became leaders.

“What sets them apart is they really put in the extra work. Nobody has to call them or ask them to show up to the gym, they just do it. Working on shooting drills, ballhandling, defensive drills, whatever they needed to do to get better.

“They will both do very well at the next level because they are hard workers.”

Gainer will be studying chemistry, while Reinbeau will looking for a degree in biomedical sciences.

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