When Bri Rutherford, a Coldwater-South Central senior point guard, was born, she had a basketball before a pacifier.
Rutherford started playing on a little kids’ goal at two years old. She was on an elementary school pee-wee squad and finished third at state in an American Legion free throw contest in third grade.
Rutherford first went to school in Yates Center and moved to Coffeyville, in southeast Kansas, in fifth grade.
Shortly after the move, Rutherford wanted to go outside and shoot. She and her mother, Casey Huck, saw a boy playing by himself. Casey told Bri to join him.
“She’s like, ‘I am not going out there, mom,’” Huck said. “She was so embarrassed and shy. I said ‘Go shoot with him.’”
Rutherford eventually joined the boy, Trey Myrie. He became one of her best friends.
Rutherford often played basketball with Myrie, Andrew Knight and Jaylen Logan. They quickly realized she had talent. The boys made Rutherford stronger, more aggressive and helped her mental game. One of the boys’ dads taught the left-handed Rutherford to do a right-handed layup.
“If she scores on them, it just makes them mad, and so they go tougher on her, which makes her go tougher, and it’s just major competition,” Huck said.
Rutherford, the oldest of three children, started for Coffeyville as a freshman, but the family looked for a better opportunity for work and basketball.
Huck gave Rutherford the option of moving to Texas, Independence, Kan. or Coldwater, Kan. Huck grew up in Coldwater, graduated in ’98 and played basketball for longtime Coldwater/South Central coach Tim Rietzke.
Rutherford had attended Rietzke’s camp in seventh grade and wanted to play for him. They transferred to South Central, the consolidation of Coldwater and Protection in Comanche County and 225 miles west of Coffeyville.
“She absolutely loved him for the most part,” Huck said.
Rietzke, with more than 740 career victories, has helped Rutherford become of one of the state’s top scorers.
“He’s much like he is now, except I told Bri, ‘He was more strict back then, but he’s still the same,’” Huck said. “Expects so much, and really disciplined. He loves the discipline, and he goes back to the fundamentals. That’s probably my favorite thing about him is he goes all the way back to the basic fundamentals of basketball.”
Rietzke has helped refine Rutherford’s playing style. She has twice earned first team all-state. She remained close to the Coffeyville trio, all currently seniors for the Golden Tornado boys’ basketball team. Rutherford and the boys are expected to take senior pictures together.
“Rietzke will tell you, like when she came here, she was good,” Huck said. “She is naturally talented. She is skilled, but she is sloppy good. He called it street ball, and she played a lot of street ball, and I understand exactly what he was saying.”
She has received significant interest from multiple schools but has not made a decision. Rutherford might follow the lead of her role model, Devin Cosper, whom she met in Coffeyville. Rutherford loved watching her play and her intensity.
She played at Coffeyville High School and one year at Coffeyville Community College and then completed a distinguished academic and athletic career at Arkansas. Last year, Cosper delivered 14.1 points and 5.6 rebounds, earned her bachelor’s and is pursuing a master’s. The two still communicate often and talked a couple weeks ago about colleges.
“You go to a school where they will make you better,” Cosper told Rutherford.
South Central is 19-4, 22-3 and 24-1 the last three falls. Two years ago, the T-Wolves finished fourth in Class 1A, Division I. Last year, SC was undefeated entering state and then lost to eventual two-time state champion Hanover in the semifinals before it won the third-place game versus Thunder Ridge.
The 5-foot-7 Rutherford averaged 20.6 points and 3.7 steals per contest. Rutherford, who collected 19.2 points a game as a sophomore, enters this year with 993 career points in two years with the T-Wolves.
SC graduated three of its top-five scorers. Senior Jordyn Jellison, a multi-year starter, returns after she averaged eight points and 5.4 rebounds a contest.
Outside of basketball, Rutherford is highly accomplished in many aspects. She is proud of qualifying for state in every season since she transferred to South Central.
This fall, SC finished third in 1A girls’ cross country and earned a team plaque. Rutherford placed 47th place and finished in the upper half of the race.
Rutherford saw another longtime friend at state cross country, Yates Center’s Hadley Splechter, the back-to-back Class 2A champion. Splechter’s coach was Rutherford’s and Splechter’s fourth-grade teacher.
“They are really good friends, and we got great pictures of them at cross country,” Huck said.
At state track last year, Rutherford and Jellison helped the T-Wolves take eighth in the 400 relay and seventh in the 1,600 relay at state.
Rutherford loves helping people, especially the elderly and those with special needs.
“She has always had a big heart,” Huck said.
She earned her Certified Nurse Aide in February 2018 and works at Pioneer Lodge Nursing Home in Coldwater.
“Seeing people like that breaks my heart and they need people there, so I feel like I can give it to them,” she said.
One of Rutherford’s great friends is Kasen Hazen, a special needs student. Rutherford took him to prom. A 3.7 GPA student, she plans to study Special Education in college.
“It was really fun, and I am glad that I got to take him, because he deserves it, and it was just exciting for him,” she said.
Rutherford perpetually loves basketball. South Central rarely allows people to shoot inside the gym. Rutherford, who practices virtually all year round, will often shoot on the outside courts in town, sometimes when it’s cold.
“We are stuck on cement and metal backboards,” she said.
In the past two seasons, SC was led by elder players, especially Rylee Alexander, Kassadee Harris and Taylor Bayne. With those girls graduated, Rutherford has looked to show Rietzke she can be positive and lead.
“Any team with hard work, dedication and a lot of motivation can always make a run, I think our team can make a run,” Rutherford said.
This feature is presented by Peoples Bank of Coldwater, Kansas. Best of luck to South Central this season!
How did you get involved in basketball?
I was given a basketball before a pacifier when I was born at the hospital my mother tells me and I was always playing at a little kid goal at two years old. I played Pee-wee ball through grade school and was always shooting around. I won the American Legion free throw contest win I was in 3rd grade and went on to the state and placed 3rd overall. We relocated to the Coffeyville area when I was a 5th grader I started shooting around with some of the boys in my neighborhood almost daily, as it was the thing to do there, Trey, Andrew and Jaylen helped make me stronger and more aggressive because they always wanted to challenge me and I started playing summer ball at Coffeyville.
My first team was an experience, then my 6th grade year I tried out and made the Coffeyville Magic Girls basketball team with Ron Davis and Steve Turner, who in all doubt along with Rietzke are the best coaches a kid could ask for, I played my last summer with Coffeyville Magic this last summer.
In 2017 we placed 3rd at Nationals, this last summer we came up a little short but the bonds/friendships I received made my love for the game even stronger. The best part of Ron being my coach when I lived in Coffeyville is that he would open the gym up for us to come shoot around and work on things we needed, he supported us so much on and off the court. I would actually bother him till he did open the gym for us.
What are your goals this season?
To be a better leader for my team and to show Coach Rietzke I do have what it takes to be a leader.
Do you guys have a shot to make a run this year?
I think any team with hard work, dedication and a lot of motivation can always make a run, I think our team can make a run.
What makes you such a force as a player?
I am just very competitive and always thinking of what to do next, sometimes that is a great trait but sometimes I go to fast and the result isn’t what I wanted or expected.
What’s the atmosphere like to play basketball for your school and town?
It is great! This community always comes out and supports us and no matter what they never give up on us, even when having a bad game or whatever one thing for sure our community here still stands tall for us and cheers us on!
For anyone that hasn’t seen one of your games, why come to one?
We have a good team and love to go fast, when the Coach allows it, lol, and when we get going and play together we are a great force!
What are your strengths and weaknesses as a player?
My strengths are pushing the ball up the court under pressure and when allowed to go fast and my weakness is more so mentally and on myself and getting down but this year Coach is working hard on this with me.
Who are other key players on your team?
Jordyn Jellison will be a force on the inside for us, she is definitely a key player!
Favorite thing about basketball?
The adrenaline I feel playing the sport, the fast pace, the loudness of the crowds, and the ‘swoosh’ of the net! I just love the game!!!
Do you play any other sports, tell us about that, what other positions do you play?
I run Cross Country in the Fall and I do track in the Spring. In track, I do the 100 and 200 and I run relays, the 4X1, 4X2, and the 4X4. So far 3 sports I have played my Sophomore year, Junior Year and now my senior year of Cross Country we have made it to state in!!
What is it like to play for your coach?
Playing for Coach Rietzke has been a huge honor for me. He also was my mother’s Coach and the main reason we moved to Coldwater before my Sophomore year was so he could be my Coach. He pushes me to become a better player, a better competitor, both mentally and physically! He never gives up on us and he always makes sure we hear him, and he supports all of his players on and off the court in other sports and academics. He can be really tough but for me as a player a need that and he makes me want it more and more!
What did you and the team do in the off-season to become better?
Our team played in Summer League at Pratt, Ks which we won again this last summer, as I also played on two other summer teams as well. A few times a couple of us have been let in the gym to play and practice this last summer but our school very rarely allows it especially through the summer so it made it hard but I used outside courts and drove all the way to Coffeyville and played ball.
What interest are you seeing at the next level and what are your plans?
I am planning on going on to play basketball, I have not yet decided on a school or really even narrowed it down, we have many people talking to me and my Coach but no decision has been made on where yet. I might be like my role model and play a year at a juco then go to a bigger school to play basketball. I am going to study in Special Education.
Favorite thing to do when you aren’t playing sports?
I love to ride horses and help my Grandpa with them, also spending time with my family and friends.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Working in Special Education and still associated with basketball somehow rather if coaching or just keeping in shape!
Favorite subject in school, what type of student are you, GPA?
Math is my favorite subject. I am an above average student, my GPA is 3.7.
Who is your role model?
Devin Cosper, who played for Coffeyville High School when I moved there and I loved watching her play and her intensity. She then went to Coffeyville Community College one year then transferred to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks where in 2017 she was announced as Rookie of the Year. She is not only a great baller but also a great person off the court with an awesome personality. Overall Devin is just an awesome amazing person, definitely a model citizen!
Best place to eat in your town or the surrounding area?
Daves Pizza Oven, best pizza in town 😊
One thing the average person wouldn’t know about you?
The hard work and dedication I put in during the off season and the amount of self-motivation and drive I put on myself. I’m not the best basketball player but I strive to keep improving my game and myself, I work harder in the off season or as I say “there is no off season”
I also have love for Special Education and helping children in that area.
Anything else to add??
I hit my 1,000 career point last year in the League Tournament against Spearville on January 25, 2018 and for South Central High only I have 993 career points. I just love the game!