No stranger to basketball coaching, longtime Wolf Branch Grade School coach and athletic director Nick Knolhoff has been hired as the new varsity girls basketball coach at Althoff High School.
The 31-year-old Knolhoff replaces former Althoff coach Todd Hill, who resigned after four seasons after being promoted to assistant fire chief with the East St. Louis Fire Department.
Knolhoff has been a varsity assistant coach previously under former Belleville East coach Ray Hoffman and has been coaching both the eighth-grade boys and girls basketball teams at Wolf Branch. This will be Knolhoff’s first varsity head coaching position, but he brings plenty of experience.
“What impressed us is his commitment to the community,” Althoff Athletic Director Mike Dori said. “It seems like he wanted to be here for the long term and that impressed us, too. He wants to build the program from the bottom up and he’s been around basketball a long time.
“We think it’s a good fit for Althoff.”
Knolhoff said he met with most of the returning players on Tuesday and is eager to begin working with the team, which starts play in the Southwestern Illinois College summer league at the beginning of June.
“I’ve always wanted the chance to coach at the varsity level,” Knolhoff said. “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
Knolhoff has been around basketball most of his life as a player at Wolf Branch and later Belleville East. His father, Greg Knolhoff, had a long and successful basketball coaching run at West Junior High and also served as an Althoff boys basketball assistant coach under Greg Leib.
“What a great shoulder to lean on,” Knolhoff said of his father. “I’m really excited to have him around and he’s actually helped me quite a bit. He knows the game and I’m excited for him to be helping me when he can.”
Althoff was 13-15 under Hill last season, losing to Mascoutah in the regional.
Madison Weilbacher was the lone senior lost to graduation and one of only two seniors on the roster along with Mary Jackson. Althoff’s top two scorers return next season in sophomores Kyleigh Vaught (13.8 points per game) and Maggie Riemer (9.3 ppg), as does point guard Rachel Collins, freshman Taje Ruffin and numerous others.
Knolhoff said one of his goals is convincing more of the school’s athletes to come out for basketball, including those already succeeding in other sports. He’s also excited about the returning talent nucleus he will be working with.
“I told them I’ve heard that they’re talented and I told them I’m very competitive, so I’m very certain I can help them reach their potential all and off the court,” Knolhoff said. “I think the girls I have are going to be very talented and hopefully we can help them over the summer.”