By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
When Garrett Sprutte first started playing basketball, there was some self-doubt on how good of a player he really was.
The reality is, he was a good player all along, but he simply didn’t know it.
Sprutte starting playing the game as a third-grader, but landed on a team with his older brother Ty and all of his classmates.
That meant Garrett was competing against fifth-graders.
During those formative years, Garrett had to scrap for playing time.
He had to fight for everything to show he belonged.
It was a challenge.
“It was always harder to play with the older kids,” Garrett said. “I wanted to be as fast as them and play like them. Looking back, I know that it wasn’t that I would never be able to do it, I just didn’t have the same physical capabilities they did at that time. It did challenge me to get better, though, and I pushed myself to play like them.”
His competitive spirit kept fueling his love for the game and by the time he was in middle school, playing against players his own age, he started to realize just how much those early years helped prepare him.
It also helped him transition as a high-school player, who once again was thrown into an opportunity of playing against older players.
After playing junior varsity as a freshman, Sprutte earned a spot on the Pirates’ varsity roster and contributed to a team that won 11 games last year, providing some scoring pop off the bench and being second on the team with 6.3 rebounds per game.
“Garrett is a player that is simply the ultimate competitor,” said Southeast boys basketball coach Mike Matisi, who had Garrett in his fourth grade class during his first year of teaching. “And I think in order to be a good player, you have to genuinely enjoy playing. Garrett enjoys the game — you can tell.”
There is enough evidence collected for that, including Sprutte’s off-season training and hours spent putting in extra work after practice is officially over.
Sprutte does not play a fall sport so his summer and fall months helped bridge his sophomore and junior seasons and the results have been noticeable.
Sprutte is averaging a double-double this season at 19.7 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, and he is coming off a career-high 30 points last week in a victory over Field.
“Entering this season, I think Garrett changed his mentality a little bit,” Matisi said, “and we needed him to. I think he knew he had to score more this year and that he had to be that guy leading us.”
Southeast graduated its top two leading scorers in Brandon Clint (21 points per game) and Aiden Fischer (13 ppg).
This year’s edition of the Pirates have worked collectively to fill those voids, with Michael Phillips, Evan Riffle, Ian Carter and Carson Dunn also playing key roles, but it has been Sprutte leading the way.
“Garrett is a matchup nightmare. He can play inside and outside, and he is just very strong,” Matisi said. “He is still a kid at heart, but he has the spirit inside him to get after it and really play hard.”
It has earned the respect of his teammates.
“We do not have the most vocal team, but if someone is going to say something, it will be Garrett and the players listen,” Matisi said. “The guys look to him as a natural leader and they respect him because of how hard he works. They recognize him as a good player, but more importantly, also as a good teammate and a good kid.”
And a player who has found himself through self-assurance and confidence.
“Confidence is the key to everything,” Sprutte said.
Great article…well written !