Former NK basketball standout reaches national limelight

When former North Kitsap basketball star Cole Rabedeaux finished high school, his career was just beginning. He played at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Clarie from 2017-20, averaging 19.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists.

But now he wants to stay involved in other ways. He began to fulfill his dreams last season as a part of the University of Houston basketball staff. The squad had amazing success this year, being ranked No. 1 in the nation much of the season before losing in the NCAA Tournament to Miami in the Sweet Sixteen.

“It’s like drinking out of a fire hydrant with how much I learned,” he said of the experience.

Rabedeaux is listed as part of Internal Operations. However, Houston coach Kelvin Sampson has taken Rabedeaux under his wing as a graduate assistant. Before taking the role, Rabedeaux had not made a decision on which way his basketball path would go.

“When I graduated, I wanted to play overseas or go coach,” he said. “I had a little action going in playing overseas but nothing that would keep me from coaching.”

Rabedeuax began emailing, writing and calling nearly every coach in the country for an opportunity to get his foot in the door. He chose coaching because he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“I always knew growing up I wanted to be a college coach,” he said. “My dad did it, and I loved everything about it.”

His father, Jason, was successful, being named Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2001 as coach of University of Texas-El Paso. Prior to that, he was a graduate assistant at Washington State University under Sampson. So, when his son was trying to get a foot in the door, Sampson decided to lend a hand.

“Coach called me one day, and there was no interview process,” Rabedeaux said. “He just checked in on me and told me ‘I would love to have you come be my GA.’ I wasn’t going to tell him no so the rest is history from there.”

Rabedeaux added he was able to land in Houston because of the relationship his dad had with Sampson. “Coach will always take care of his people,” Rabedeaux said.

Rabedeaux packed his bags in Poulsbo in June of 2021 and drove down to begin his coaching career at Houston. Although Rabedeaux is low on the ladder, his responsibilities are crucial to Houston’s success.

During the offseason, Rabedeaux helps with film study on recruits, assists with summer workouts and helps facilitate recruiting visits to campus. His responsibilities change during the season.

“You get into a routine of practice, film, scouts and games,” Rabedeaux said. “At practice, I am sometimes used as a practice player. I was also assigned as a scout assistant with our lead assistant coach.”

Through his time as a graduate assistant, Rabedeaux learned a lot that he hopes will help him become a great coach down the road. He has learned the basics of recruiting, how the program works with the school and building relationships with players. “We have kids coming from everywhere,” Rabedeaux said. “I’m a six-foot white kid who is not very athletic, but one thing I did do is make sure I played my tail off. I will try to share it with these guys and be a good role model for them.”

Houston has been one of the best teams in the country since Rabedeaux joined them. He has learned to adjust from the small-town exposure to the national limelight. “Sampson does a good job with this. He keeps us out of the limelight and not focus on it,” Rabedeaux said. “You can’t think about all the people lining up and watching you get off the bus. It’s cool but you got to understand how grateful you are to be in it.”

He made sure to take in every moment of March Madness.

“I remember when I was a junior in high school, my mom saved up a bunch of money to take me to Key Arena for the first two rounds of the national tournament,” Rabedeaux said. “We had nosebleed seats, and I thought it was awesome even though I could barely see the court. Fast forward to now and me being behind the bench, it’s crazy how special it is.”

Rabedeaux said he is learning about the biggest challenges and benefits that come as a coach at the NCAA level.

“The toughest thing is the commitment it takes to operate at this level,” Rabedeaux said. “When you choose a coaching career, you are making a commitment that this is your life. Now that I am here and seeing how delicate winning is, that is the one biggest benefit. There is no other feeling like it.”

Even though Rabedeaux’s coaching career is in its infancy, he has hopes to return to Washington at some point. “Being a kid from Washington, coaching at the University of Washington would be sweet,” Rabedeaux said.

Cole Rabedeaux helps the team in practices, recruiting, scouting and more.

Cole Rabedeaux helps the team in practices, recruiting, scouting and more.