Decade’s best No. 10: Central Mountain’s Cole Renninger was phenomenal in boys basketball
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a series looking back at the Top 10 boys basketball teams, coaches, games and players from the last decade.
He was not a big talker or self-promoter. Cole Renninger just quietly went about his business from 2010-13.
And quietly, he became one of the best players in program history. He flew under the area radar as well, but Renninger sure made a lot of noise on the court and built an envious high school resume before playing college basketball at Lehigh and Lock Haven.
No area player last decade averaged more points per game in a season than Renninger during his 2013 senior season when he produced 27.0 per game. The versatile guard led the state in scoring that season, earning Class AAAA second team all-state honors. A hard worker and a top-ranked student, Renninger made enormous strides each season at Central Mountain and blew up the program record book, graduating as the school’s all-time leader in points (1,562), assists (267), steals (242) and 3-pointers (132).
An all-star football player as well, Renninger always found time to enhance his game during the offseason and helped Central Mountain experience one of its best four-year runs. The Wildcats recorded winning seasons in each of Renninger’s seasons, winning 57 games and reaching two District 6 championships. During that time he averaged 17.4 points per game.
Renninger showed flashes of becoming the player he did as a freshman, averaging 5.1 points per game and becoming a quality contributor as the season progressed. He expected more, however, and went back to the lab, continuing his work.
A year later a good player started becoming great. Renninger earned the first of three Mountain League first team all-star honors, averaging 17.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.6 steals per game as a sophomore, helping Central Mountain go 14-9. Renninger highlighted his season with a 24-point performance in a 72-69 win against Williamsport before erupting for 32 and 35 points in his last two regular-season games against Indian Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola. Becoming a model of consistency, Renninger stuffed the stat sheet on a regular basis and started a stretch in which he produced double-digit scoring performances in all but two games over his last three years.
Renninger went into overdrive in his final two seasons at Central Mountain, scoring 1,104 points during that time. He was one of the area’s most dominant threats and averaged 20 points as a junior. Renninger, though, was more than just a prolific scorer and all aspects of his game kept improving as he averaged 6.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.7 steals per game. He opened the season with a 33-point, eight-rebound, six-assists, four-steal performance against P-O and performances like that started becoming the norm. Renninger topped 20 points 12 times and twice finished an assist shy of a triple-double. One of those games came at one of the most important times as well.
Hollidaysburg had beaten Central Mountain three weeks before they met in the District 6 semifinals, but Renninger dominated he rematch, going for 20 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals. His performance fueled the Wildcats in their 45-36 victory as Central Mountain reached the district championship.
A year later, players like Williamsport’s Jahad Thomas, Isaiah Washington and St. John Neumann’s Alize Johnson started one of most entertaining and impressive periods of the decade. But Renninger was right there with them and was the Sun-Gazette’s runner-up for Player of the Year.
He produced, arguably, the best season in program history, and made a run at averaging a triple-double. In addition to averaging a state-best 27.2 points per game, Renninger also reached career-highs in nearly every other category, including rebounds (8.3), steals (4.7), assists (4.3) and blocks (1.0) er game. Despite defenses focusing so much attention on him, Renninger still made 54% of his shots and drained 46 3-pointers. He never scored fewer than 15 points in a game, topped 20 points in 19 of 23 games and went over 30 points eight times.
Renninger erupted for a career-high 43 points against Bellefonte and a few nights later scored 40 points in a one-point win against Shikellamy.
And when Central Mountain needed him most, Renninger delivered in a big way. He nearly recorded a triple-double in a district semifinal win against Altoona, scoring 25 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dealing nine assists. He nearly helped Central Mountain stun perennial power State College in the final, but the Wildcats dropped a 63-59 double overtime thriller, finishing their best season of the decade, 16-7.
Renninger was all-state in football during the fall and duplicated that achievement in basketball, also earning Mountain League MVP honors. Renninger did not seek the attention but it could not be avoided either.
His performances spoke mighty loud.