By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The blueprint of what a leader looks like can be found inside Garrett Sprutte’s timeline for Friday, Dec. 29, 2023.
Right in the middle of the school’s holiday break, the Southeast senior’s Pirates were scheduled to host the Ravenna Ravens.
By the early afternoon hours, sitting at home, Sprutte begins to feel the anxious nerves of just wanting to be at the gym.
Yes, his game is still more than five or six hours away, but being in the gym is where he wants to be.
By 3 p.m., Sprutte had arrived at the gymnasium, his favorite place.
With his dad, Brian, he gets his shoes laced up, a ball from the rack and starts putting up shots in preparation for that night’s game.
By 5 p.m., Sprutte is warming up with the JV team. Not goofing around or as a vocal leader, but preparing himself as if he was going to play in the JV game.
When it is noticed and Southeast athletic director Pat Youel is asked, “What is Garrett doing out there? Why is he warming up with the JVs?”
Youel responds, “He is a leader. A true leader. He wants to be out there for all of his teammates.”
Finally, by 7 p.m., it is time for the varsity game and when Sprutte misses his first five shots of the first quarter and his team falls behind 7-2 to the Ravens, there is not any signs of panic in his body language, demeanor or playing style.
Even when head coach Matt Dillon calls an early first-quarter timeout that begins with Dillon walking onto the court to meet Sprutte halfway to the huddle, directly showing displeasure in an expectation his standout failed to meet.
Sprutte listened, nodded, then said, “Yes, sir.”
In the blink of an eye, Sprutte turns the Pirates’ ship in a positive direction. First it is a 10-7 lead, then that grows to a 28-13 advantage by halftime.
The Pirates closed out a 64-51 victory, with Sprutte leading the way with 35 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and a gratifying smile that probably only disappeared later when the administration and custodial staff had to eventually turn off the gym lights.
It would be logical to think that Sprutte would stay for a postgame shootaround if he was permitted.
The details of Sprutte’s Friday night actions are merely a snapshot of the player that he has become.
His numbers have always shown the physical ability to dominate, and they are there again this year at 22 points and 12 rebounds per game.
However, his maturation into a player that sees himself as a small piece to something bigger has been everything that coach Dillon could ask for in his first year leading the program since 2013.
“Garrett’s importance to the team is easy to see on the court, but what others don’t see is how he helps off the court,” Dillon said. “When there is a middle school basketball game that the coaches are going to watch, Garrett goes also and brings a few players with him. The younger kids see him there, he is talking with them, high-fiving them. The value of having Garrett in the basketball program will be felt for a long, long time.”
For Sprutte, he enjoys the opportunity to make an impact, but from a simpler perspective, he is just being himself.
“It is just part of my personality,” Sprutte said. “I love being around basketball, and I love being around all my teammates. Going to support the younger players at the middle school is something I enjoy doing.”
At this point, none of it surprises Dillon, who said that once he finalized his coaching staff of Doug Craver, Nick Dillon and Zeddie Pollock upon being hired, the group met with Sprutte to discuss the program, season expectations and more.
Through that conversation, Dillon said that he quickly realized that Sprutte “wanted to be part of something bigger than himself.”
“He wanted to help grow the basketball program, and he has not disappointed us,” Dillon said. “Garrett is a tremendous program leader and his work ethic is already rubbing off on the younger players.”
If they continue to mimic him further, the timeline of Friday, Dec. 29, 2023, won’t belong to Sprutte alone, but it will most certainly be attributed to him.