Ivanauskas rounds into form at Barrington
Barrington's Rapolas Ivanauskas could have taken the easy way out.
After all, 6-foot-9 players just don't come around that often. And when they do, they almost always end up playing a post position, using their height and long reach to turn themselves into a strong high school basketball player and possibly earn a college scholarship.
But Ivanauskas wasn't just satisfied with only being a post player.
"I can play the post really well, but I am more of a guard during the summer," Ivanauskas said. "I am like a small forward who can bring the ball up. I used to play the post when I was young. I have been working the past three summers on my ball handling. During the preseason open gyms, I even play point guard."
Ivanauskas started last year for Barrington as a sophomore last year. His 8 points and rebounds per game earned him honorable mention in the all-conference and all-area selections.
But it was his play during the spring and summer leagues that got high school basketball observers to take notice.
Playing for Full Package, Ivanauskas' game began to take a new shape. He added those ball handling skills and played small forward to make himself into a well-rounded player.
"I feel it is an advantage for me," Ivanauskas said. "The more I add to the game, the more dangerous of a player I can be. "
Ivanauskas credits his father, Tomas, for his work ethic. Tomas Ivanauskas played professionally in Lithunia and moved to the Arlington Heights area when Rapolas was a young child. After his eighth grade year, the family moved to Barrington, where Rapolas immediately caught Barrington coach Bryan Tucker's eye.
"I had heard from the Prospect people that he was coming our way," Tucker said. "He looked good from the first time he was in our gym."
Ivanauskas played sophomore basketball as a freshman before moving up to the varsity the next season.
"There were some growing pains for him last year," Tucker said. "There was some adjustment to varsity basketball and adjusting to his teammates. Actually it was probably the other way. It was his teammates adjusting to his strengths."
After that period of adjustment, Barrington, which got off to a slow start, came on strong at the end of the season. After winning its first playoff game, the 14th-seeded Broncos gave third-seeded Lake Forest all it could handle before bowing out down the stretch.
With that in the back of his mind, Ivanauskas went back to work.
Tucker can see the difference in him this year.
"He is very relaxed and comfortable and he is using the skill set we knew he had," Tucker said. "He has gotten stronger and has become a threat inside and out.
"He is really seeing the floor well. Teams are going to try and take him away, so he is finding open guys. He has really made himself into a complete player. It is nice to see."
That complete player has not gone unnoticed by the college recruiters. At least two dozen Division I schools have sent letters, and Northwestern and Iowa have already offered Ivanauskas a scholarship.
"It feels good," Ivanauskas said. "I have been working hard all my life. A lot of people have believed in me and I am finally getting some recognition."
Coaching a top-level player is nothing new to Tucker. When he was head coach at Loyola Academy, he had both of Michael Jordan's sons and the media and college frenzy that surrounded them.
"Who doesn't like coaching talented players?" Tucker said. "Rap has such a good head on his shoulders. He is really mature. I don't think any of that stuff will bother him."
Ivanauskas feels that his grades and basketball ability will pay huge dividends for him.
"This is what I have always wanted to do," Ivanauskas said. "Do well in school and play hard when I play basketball."
And never take the easy way out.