When Russell Raniszewski headed south from the Florence area to take a teaching job at H.E. McCracken Middle School last summer, he didn’t know what his future as a basketball coach would hold.
Raniszewski — pronounced roughly like “rent a jet ski,” if you say it really fast, he tells his students — landed on the boys basketball staff at May River High School, but everyone knew it was only a matter of time before he was back coaching the girls game, where he’s more comfortable.
That opportunity came Thursday, when Hilton Head Island High School announced Raniszewski as the Seahawks’ new girls basketball coach, replacing Sean Rochester, who is relocating to the Philadelphia area.
Raniszewski, known as “Coach R,” inherits a program that loses just two seniors off a team that went 11-14 a year ago but lost nine games by six points or fewer. After senior Miley Ray (12.8 points), the Seahawks’ next three scorers included two sophomores and a freshman.
“We’ve got pieces in place that can be very successful and compete in the region,” Raniszewski said. “I feel with the things that I do and how I coach, I think that Hilton Head can be, I don’t want to say a power, but we can compete in this region and in the state for years to come.”
Raniszewski spent much of his childhood in the Lowcountry when his father was stationed in Beaufort, but he played his high school ball in Northern Virginia before returning to South Carolina to play at Coker College. He was a three-year starter for the Cobras and earned his bachelor’s degree in sport management and later a master’s in athletic administration from Coker. He also has a master’s in coaching education and athlete development from Xavier University.
Although Raniszewski has been a head coach only once before — a two-year stint guiding a rebuilding program at Class 1A Hannah-Pamplico — he has coached 17 years at the high school level, spread across five different schools, all in South Carolina. That wealth of experience has exposed Raniszewski to a broad range of coaching styles and philosophies, and he likes to put all of them to use.
While the defensive and offensive sets might vary, Raniszewski says certain defining characteristics will shine through in his team.
“You’re going to see a competitive, hard-working team on the floor that communicates,” Raniszewski said. “It’ll be loud in the gym, and when you come to games, you’re going to be able to hear the girls talk to each other in a basketball sense and be getting after it and be competitive.”