Reese Skinner has heard the stories — the winning streak, the state championships, everything. The Valley senior guard has had them relayed to him by friends and strangers alike, even while walking through the halls at school.
“All the time,” Skinner said. “Adults and teachers will come up to me and tell me that my dad was their favorite player. I’ve just been around basketball my whole life, and it’s pretty cool having somebody to look up to. He can help me out and give me tips.”
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Skinner is the son of Troy Skinner, the former Iowa basketball player who attended Palmer High School. From 1986-88, Troy helped Palmer to 103 consecutive victories, the nation’s longest streak at the time, and three state straight titles.
On Wednesday, Reese Skinner and the Valley boys’ basketball team will begin their state title defense against Des Moines North in the Class 4A quarterfinal round. Tipoff is set for 8:15 p.m.
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Skinner played sparingly during the Tigers’ run to a state championship a year ago. He took just 42 shots last season but hit on 15 of them, good for an average of 2.3 points per game. He also dished out 15 assists and recorded three steals.
He didn’t see the floor in Valley’s 46-39 win over Iowa City West in the state title game, but he was there on the bench, soaking in the atmosphere. It felt exactly like what his father said it would be when he heard stories of the legendary Palmer teams.
“I’ve heard a lot about it,” Skinner said. “It’s kind of cool how their whole town rallied around them. It was a really small town. It’s cool to hear the stories and stuff like that.
“A lot of my family was involved with it, too. My grandpa was the coach. My uncle also played on the team. Everybody was just involved. It’s a pretty cool story.”
Back then, the state tournament was at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, but for each game, seemingly the entire Palmer community was in attendance. Alden Skinner, Troy’s father and then the Palmer coach, told the Register in 2011 that “every male student was a player or a manager.”
Troy then went on to Iowa, where he averaged 7.7 points and 3.4 assists per game during the 1990-91 season as a junior. That’s where a handful of Reese Skinner’s peers and teachers know the name.
“I know he played for Iowa, and that he was pretty good,” Valley senior Quinton Curry said. “I know he’s in the Hall of Fame. I heard he was a great player, but I’ve never actually seen video of him or anything.”
The one thing that sticks out to Reese Skinner about those Palmer teams was that it was a full team effort each time out, similar to how Valley has played this season.
The Tigers enter Wednesday’s matchup at 19-4 overall, and they’ve won 10 straight games. Only one player, senior Austin Hinkle, averages double-digit points, at 10.7. Four others score at least eight points per game and another three contribute at least five.
Skinner is part of that depth, scoring 9.3 points per game. He’s knocked down 38.8 percent of his three-point shots this season, and has dished out another 33 assists while recording a team-high 30 steals.
“It was a really cool experience to get down there and go win it,” Skinner said of last year’s run. “That was really cool to be a part of, and now we know what to expect this year. I think we have a good shot. We just have to take it game by game.”
His coach echoed those same thoughts.
“I think being through last years’ experience will definitely help,” Valley coach B.J. Windhorst said. “That was certainly an advantage to us last year.”
Cody Goodwin covers high school sports, college basketball recruiting and Drake athletics for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
Class 4A Quarterfinal Games
Wednesday, March 8
Iowa City West vs. Newton — 1:05 p.m.
Hempstead vs. CR Kennedy — 2:45 p.m.
Bettendorf vs. Sioux City East — 6:35 p.m.
Valley vs. DM North — 8:15 p.m.