Three years ago, Osage senior Eric Bobinet never could’ve imagined that he would one day throw down a dunk that would electrify the home crowd.
For one thing, he stood around 5-foot-3 as a freshman, and was still several seasons away from breaking into the varsity starting lineup.
Now, he is an offensive force for the Green Devils, and after scoring a team-high 21 points Tuesday night in Osage’s 54-38 win over North Butler, Bobinet leads the program with 281 points on the season, and a 16.5 points per game average.
Last year, Bobinet played sparingly at the varsity level. With nine seniors on the roster, he made zero starts and scored only 21 total points while spending most of his time on junior varsity. Once last season ended, and the Green Devils had spots to fill, Bobinet’s name immediately shot to the top of the list.
“We had a lot of positions to fill this year,” Osage head coach Mike Brahn said. “Everything was wide-open, and really, from the few open gyms we had this summer to the start of the season, you could really tell that he put some time in in developing himself and taking on that role.”
The Bobinet name is seemingly everywhere in Osage athletics. Eric’s older brother, Brett, was a football, basketball, and baseball star for the Green Devils, and currently plays football at Simpson College. Twin sister Ellie is a standout volleyball and basketball player for the school.
For Eric, his siblings' successes just made him even more sure that his time was coming. He grew from 5-foot-3 to around 5-foot-7 between sophomore and junior year. This past summer, he grew some more, and now estimates his height as around 6-foot-3.
That growth spurt, along with lots of offseason workouts when Brett was home for the summer due to the pandemic, Bobinet was confident that this was going to be his year to shine.
Last year, he watched as the Green Devils went 20-3 and make it to the substate semifinal, where they lost to Forest City, 51-50. The team was led by 6-foot senior Jonah Bluhm, who was something of a mentor to Bobinet.
With Bluhm’s graduation, he knew that there was a leadership void that would need to be filled.
“They were our leading scorers, and I knew that somebody needed to step up,” Bobinet said. “Jonah was a big motivation to me last year, he always told me ‘Go put some work in.’ He always worked in the gym too, and he helped me out in the summer sometimes.”
Toward the end of last season, Brahn told Bobinet that he would need to step up and play a crucial role for the team in 2020-2021. After seeing him excel in the final few weeks of the JV season last year, Brahn penciled him into the starting lineup for the team’s Dec. 1 opener against Newman Catholic.
In that game, Bobinet scored 13 points, collected seven rebounds and six steals, while dishing out seven assists. Since then, he has led the team in scoring in all but four games, and also holds the team lead in rebounds and steals.
“That first night against Newman, the way he handled himself, the way he scored for us, and was so strong out there on the court, that first game kind of set the tone for his season so far,” Brahn said.
Bobinet’s big season has not been the only breakout performance for the Green Devils. Aside from Bobinet, players like Tyler Oberfoell, Nathan Havel, and Ben Miller have all put up encouraging numbers in their first opportunity in their starting lineup, while freshman Max Knudsen has been effective off the bench.
But considering his humble beginnings as a 5-foot-3 freshman playing on JJV, Bobinet’s rise is particularly striking.
“You look at Eric as a freshman, he was one of the smallest dudes we had,” Brahn said. “He just really shot up, and during the pandemic, just having his brother home from college, lifting and working out with Brett made a huge difference for him. He’s made a huge transformation of his body.”
As a late bloomer, Bobinet gets just this one season to leave his own mark on the program. This is his only chance to help get the team to its first state tournament since 2016.
The road will be tough, with the team currently is in third place in the Top of Iowa East behind West Fork and Newman Catholic, but Bobinet has overcome some long odds before.
“I knew my time was coming,” Bobinet said. “I knew that I put the work in, and that I was going to be a late bloomer. I really shot up, so I knew that senior year was going to be my time.”
Osage will play on Friday at Nashua-Plainfield.
Osage boys basketball vs North Butler - Knudsen
Osage boys basketball vs North Butler - Oberfoell
Osage boys basketball vs North Butler -Bobinet
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Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.