Marquette Men’s Basketball: Riebau learning life lessons as a manager

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By Alex Busbee

SMI Reporter, Special to the Tribune

In the bright lights of March Madness, the stars of the Marquette basketball team were on display. You know Darius Johnson-Odom, and you know Jae, but you probably don’t know Kal.

Kal Riebau may not be the one dunking at the Bradley Center, but don’t underestimate his importance. Riebau is a manager, and the manager’s role is critical, as assistant coach Brad Autry knows well.

“Kal is a vital part of what we do, and he receives the same amount of respect and admiration as any of our other guys do,” Autry said.

Riebau was born with a partial left arm. As a child, he wore a prosthetic arm, but hated it so much he attempted to flush it down the toilet. He has to work harder to learn new skills, but it doesn’t interfere with his managing duties or daily life.

Managers do laundry, study film and do everything in between. They attend practices and even fly with the team to away games.

“We do a lot of individual workouts with the players, helping them get shots up or rebounding for them,” Riebau said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s a lot of fun. We basically make sure everything functions the way it should and leave the rest up to the team.”

An Appleton, Wis., native, Riebau played baseball until his senior year of high school, when he tried out for basketball instead. He devoted his summer to improving his game, spending hours in the gym every day. He went on to make the team. Although Riebau rarely played, Eric Eastman, Appleton North High School coach, saw Riebau’s contribution.

“He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever coached,” Eastman said. “Not only can he get things done, he can get other people to get things done too. You know he’s going to be working just as hard as you are, so you want to be right next to Kal because you know he’s going to be successful in whatever he does.”

After high school, Riebau applied to be a manager, landing the job his freshmen year and has been working there ever since.

“I realized that I loved the game of basketball after my senior year,” Riebau said. “I wanted to be a part of the game, whether that be coaching or doing something like this managing job. I just want to be around it because I love it.”

Buzz Williams and the rest of the coaching staff has taught Riebau much about the game of basketball, and he dreams of one day becoming a college coach. But they taught something else too.

“(The coaches) talk a lot about basketball and strategies and all the stuff that comes with the game,” Riebau said. “But just as often they talk about being the best person you can be. Learning that stuff, you can’t put a price on that. You’re not going to get that at a coaching school.”

Riebau’s mom, Kara Riebau, has noticed the effect the basketball program has had on her son.

“I’m so proud of him, and I can see how happy he is,” Kara said. “What the basketball program has done for him — it has helped him grow up and meet a lot of interesting people and see a lot of interesting places.”

Kal has enjoyed his time as a manager so far, and is looking forward to his next two seasons.

“I really feel like I am a part of the program, and it’s a great feeling to have.”

Go online at marquettetribune.org to learn more about Kal and his life as a basketball manager. 

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