Riley Lodico’s impact on the Hubs varsity basketball team may not appear on the stat sheet every night, but his presence inside the Rochelle locker room and around the hallways of his high school are routinely felt by both his teammates and his peers.
Lodico worked his way into Rochelle’s starting lineup this season after coming off the bench for the Hubs last year, when the team won 20 games and finished just a few points shy of winning a regional championship. The senior guard cares more about his team’s success than his own, and as he pushes through his third varsity season, he continues to pattern his game around leadership and selflessness.
“I love playing as a team,” Lodico said. “I love the fast-paced adrenaline and I really like the feeling of going 100 miles per hour during a game. I would describe myself as an unselfish player. I want us to see success, and if success isn’t there, everything will be alright as long as we’re sticking together and having fun.”
Fortunately, the success has been there for the Hubs this winter. Rochelle (11-6, 3-0 NIB-12 West) has won five of its last six games and the boys are 8-2 over their last 10 games. Lodico’s season-high 22 points on six 3-point shots lifted Rochelle to a big win over Geneseo in December, and even though he isn’t Rochelle’s top scorer, the effort and leadership he brings to the floor each game hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Rochelle coaching staff.
“There hasn’t been a kid in my 19 years here at Rochelle who has cared more about high school basketball,” Hubs head coach Tim Thompson said. “His passion for high school sports is second to none, and he’s a big reason for our success this year. He has been a tremendous captain and leader this year as well as a great teammate.”
Lodico’s confidence has grown throughout his three-year varsity basketball career, and his role on both ends of the floor has increased as well. After playing with a core group of seniors including Caleb Gould, Landon Griffith and Kyle Seebach during his junior season, Lodico has learned more about what it takes to excel at the varsity level, and he’s using the knowledge he absorbed from his former teammates to push Rochelle’s younger players along this season.
“I just want to be a leader for us and I feel like that’s a key for our team’s success,” Lodico said. “I want to be a leader not just for our team, but for the sophomores and the other kids below us. Leadership is something that has always been big for me. Those guys last year made things better for us now. Competing in practice and making each other better every day helped a lot.”
Under the guidance of his father Kent, who was a three-sport athlete in high school, Lodico started playing basketball when he was 5 years old. His younger sister, Bella, has spent time with both Rochelle’s freshman and sophomore girls basketball teams this year. As he strives to be a role model for his teammates, he aspires to set a good example for his sister, and he often draws inspiration from his mother Tricia, who he said has battled cancer.
“My mom has been a really big part of my life,” Lodico said. “What I go through in practice and games is nothing compared to what she had to go through, and seeing her strength has really given me the strength to carry on with my life, not just in basketball, but in general. I love my sister, and I really want to show her that… It’s OK to be different and it’s important to live life the way you want to.”
The Hubs are seeking their first conference championship since 2012, and wins over Ottawa, Geneseo and LaSalle-Peru have Rochelle off to a fast start. But with plenty of games still to play, Lodico and his teammates are keeping their expectations high. They may not be scoring as much as they did last year, but the Hubs have been stifling opponents with a defense surrendering just 53.8 points per game.
“We’re playing with more confidence, and whether we’re playing a press or a 1-3-1, we’re more confident on defense,” Lodico said. “We want to win the conference and we really want to win a regional. Last year stung a lot for those of us who experienced it so we want to get that done since it hasn’t been done in a while.”