PREP BASKETBALL: Gruis inks with USD

ELLSWORTH -- Trevor Gruis doesn't like to lose. During his high school career on the Ellsworth boys' basketball team, he hasn't had to experience it much. Gruis hopes to carry that winning tradition to the next level. Recently, the senior signed ...

Trevor Gruis
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Ellsworth's Trevor Gruis (seated) signs his letter of intent to play basketball for the University of South Dakota. Pictured with Gruis are (from left): parents Missy and Layton and Ellsworth head boys' basketball coach Tyler Morris.

ELLSWORTH -- Trevor Gruis doesn't like to lose.

During his high school career on the Ellsworth boys' basketball team, he hasn't had to experience it much.

Gruis hopes to carry that winning tradition to the next level. Recently, the senior signed a letter of intent to continue his basketball career at the University of South Dakota.

"I don't like losing too much," Gruis said. "I don't usually talk too much on the way home if we lose. It'll probably be different because it's a whole different level with D-I. Since coach (Dave) Boots has been there, they are on a streak of 16 straight 20-plus win seasons.

"It'll be different. Nobody likes to lose, but it'll be different."


Since his call-up to the varsity squad his freshman year, Gruis has been a part of two state championships and a state runner-up.

"Anytime you can get someone that's come from a high school program that's had a lot of success, they come with a good attitude," Boots said. "They come with a little confidence, and they're conditioned to have good team success."

In Gruis' three years, he has a combined record of 92-7.

"I'm sure I'll think about it when I get out of high school," Gruis said. "Last year, a Sioux Falls team had two D-I kids on their team and they only won 13 games. They lost more games in one season than I have in my career."

But becoming the first Ellsworth player to sign at a Division I program, Gruis knows it will be a tough transition from Class A basketball.

"It's just so much different than high school basketball," Gruis said. "It's crazy. Their guards are three steps faster than any guard around here. Their big guys are so much smarter, they play before they get the ball. I played for a game and a half and I was just exhausted. Those guys were like, 'Come on, let's go.' It's going to be way different. The pace of the game and the physicality down low in the post position is ridiculous because they are so big."

But with two senior post players graduating from this year's USD team, it's Gruis' 6-foot, 9-inch frame that excites Boots.

"No. 1, he brings us some size," Boots said. "Just the fact that he's 6-9 is going to be important at the level we're trying to play at, and we do play with that type of size. He has to get stronger, but he'll bring some offensive skill to us. He'll play either the four spot or the five spot. He shoots the ball pretty well, I think he passes it pretty well, and he understands how to play. He'll be a typical freshman coming in, he'll have plenty to learn, but I think he's going to be a kid that can play for us early in his career."


As the Coyotes are transitioning into D-I, Gruis will have the opportunity to play against some of the top programs and players in the nation. It was that challenge that interested him.

"I like the coaching staff, they have great academics and it's only an hour and 45 minutes away," Gruis said. "It'll be a challenge; I'm the first D-I kid out of Ellsworth, so it will be pretty interesting to see how it works. I think we open with Nebraska my first year and we play at Marquette, so it'll be a big challenge."

As USD moves into the Summit League, Gruis and the Coyotes would be eligible for the NCAA tournament beginning in 2012-13, Gruis' junior year.

"That's what everybody dreams about," Gruis said. "You watch Duke and all those guys on TV and like NDSU last year, it would be crazy to play Kansas or something in the NCAA tournament."

During his three years on varsity, Gruis has scored 1,085 points, grabbed 686 rebounds and dished out 275 assists.

"He's an excellent basketball player," Ellsworth head coach Tyler Morris said. "He's a very good offensive player. He's making strides right now in the offseason on his shot. He can pass the ball and handle the ball better than any big man I've seen for that size. That's something their coaching staff has talked about that they like to have the ball in their post players' hands. Their post players handle the ball a lot for them and have to make decisions. They've said that he's going to be an excellent fit in that area for them. I think he has a chance to contribute at that level."

Boots also knows Gruis will help the Coyotes.

"I think he has a big upside," the coach said. "He runs really well, he has good hands, he's a pretty skilled offensive kid and we think he's going to get better and better. I think he's going to be a very coachable kid. He's had a nice high school career already with another year to go. He's just a real quality kid with a great family that supports him. He should fit in really well with us."


After coaching him for a season and watching his progress in the offseason, Morris knows Gruis has hard work in front of him. But, he is confident Gruis will fit in at the D-I level.

"I think initially he'll have to work really hard and be surprised," Morris said. "I'm not sure of too many high school kids that are ready to go just like that at the college level. He's going to have to work on his shot and get in the weight room and get stronger. But there's no doubt in my mind that he can play at that level."

Gruis was relieved to have his decision out of the way before his senior year begins. But he also knows there is a lot of work ahead.

"I'll just go in there and work hard," he said. "I'm going to go in there this summer and learn as much as possible. They have a good coaching staff, so I'm sure that will be pretty easy. I like basketball a lot, so I'll just work hard at it and I think I should be all right."

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