Ruberg elevates game, has Rushford-Peterson on the rise
He hopes to be a electrical lineman in the future, but senior forward Justin Ruberg's goal is to help Rushford-Peterson earn a state berth in boys basketball
Justin Ruberg never had to go far when he was trying to hone his basketball skills growing up.
He simply went to the driveway of his home to work on his game. And he usually had a younger sister to play against as well.
“Our childhood was definitely filled with nights playing basketball in the driveway,” Ruberg said.
Ruberg is now a senior and standout for the Rushford-Peterson boys basketball team. His sister, Kaylee, is a junior and plays for the R-P girls basketball team.
“A lot of one-and-ones and a lot of wins for Justin,” he added with a chuckle. “We’re so competitive, I couldn’t let her win.”
Ruberg is off to a great start for the Trojans this season. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound forward is averaging approximately 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.
“He does everything for us,” Rushford-Peterson coach Chris Drinkall said. “We go through him offensively. On every trip down we want him to touch it. And now he’s starting to get double-teamed and our guys know that he’s such a good passer and he can handle the ball. When a double-team comes, they know he’s going to find the open guy.”
Ruberg began this season — his fourth year as a starter — by scoring his 1,000th career point in the opening game, a 61-44 win against Fillmore Central.
“Having my family there and being able to hit it on the first game, it was a cool moment,” Ruberg said.
After two seasons on the varsity, Ruberg got serious about training heading into his junior year of high school in the fall of 2020. The three-sport athlete responded by averaging 15 points per game in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season.
“Last year in about August through springtime, I started working out pretty hard in La Crosse with a guy named Eddie Hodges,” Ruberg said. “He definitely got me a lot better athletically and strength-wise.”
On the basketball court, Ruberg became more physical and aggressive and has taken his game to another level. Ruberg has the ability to score from inside and outside and he is a terror on the boards.
“I think this year I’ve definitely gotten a lot better just being more aggressive,” Ruberg said. “I think I was always trying to be that type of kid, but this year I’ve really stepped it up.”
And while he can shoot 3-pointers, Ruberg’s physical play suits his strong inside game.
“I've gotten better outside,” he said, “but inside, I can always count on myself to go in there and get a few points.”
Played in state football tournament
Ruberg also plays baseball and football at R-P. His physical play helped him excel at wide receiver and on defense for the football team. He helped the Trojans win the Section 1A championship and advance to the Class A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium before falling to Minneota. Ruberg was named the R-P’s defensive player of the year and the thrilling season vaulted football to the top of his favorite sport list.
“Growing up, it was always basketball,” Ruberg said. “But this year, going to state for football was a really cool experience so I think I’d have to lean toward football right now.”
With that state tournament experience fresh in his mind, Ruberg would like nothing better than to do the same in basketball.
“We definitely feel like we have the team this year,” he said. “We just have to go out there and put it all together. We feel like we have a chance this year.”
R-P was 13-7 in basketball a year ago and reached the Section 1A semifinals before falling to Southland. The Trojans have four senior starters back and are off to a solid 6-2 start, including a nice 51-47 win over defending Class A state champion Hayfield, plus a win over previously state-ranked Spring Grove. R-P is currently ranked fifth in the state in Class A.
“We definitely have a bunch of experience, which really helps,” Ruberg said. “State’s definitely the No. 1 goal for us right now.”
If the Trojans do make a strong postseason run, Ruberg will likely play a big role.
“I’m really glad he’s on my team,” Drinkall said. “He’s a good leader and a role model for the younger kids.”
Ruberg, 18, enjoys fishing and the outdoors. He figures this will be his final year playing competitive sports. After high school, he plans on attending Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount to become an electrical lineman.
“I always knew I didn’t want to work in an office and wanted to be working with my hands,” he said. “That’s one thing that showed up right away. And one of my buddy’s brothers went there a few years ago and I guess that really intrigued me.”