It was 2007.
I was a fresh-faced young writer from Iowa.
I had finally caught a break — I was hired as a full-time sports reporter.
I was hired in June, so by the time basketball season rolled around, I was a seasoned veteran.
Whenever there was talk about basketball in southwest Minnesota, the Ellsworth name came up. And with it, Cody Schilling. The legend of Mr. Schilling grew with each day.
As the season was kicking off, I went to the jamboree to get a glimpse of the player who would set the Minnesota record for most points in the game.
The season progressed and we at the paper kept a close eye on Schilling. He surpassed 3,000 career points and I was there. The Panthers qualified for state, and I was there. While at state, he set the all-time scoring record.
But all the while, another player was catching my eye.
That player was a tall and lanky Trevor Gruis.
He was just a sophomore that season. But he made a big impact on each game he played. I remember talking to him during the state tournament for a story. He was quiet, almost unaware of how good he really was.
In that article, I wrote “ At 6-8, Gruis has provided the Panthers with a strong post game and is a major reason why the Panthers are returning to the state championship game for the third consecutive year. The sophomore averages nearly nine rebounds a contest and has blocked 68 shots this season.”
He kept getting better and better each year. By the time he was a senior, Trevor had molded himself into one of the best players in the state.
Because of his skills, he was signed by the University of South Dakota.
Trevor is now a junior on the Coyotes’ team, and doing quite well.
A few weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house when I saw the University of Iowa men’s basketball schedule. The first thing I saw was USD was playing Iowa.
I tweeted at Trevor, who confirmed that was indeed the case — USD at Iowa on Dec. 4.
The wheels started turning. I wondered if I could make it for the game. Being a big Iowa fan, I wanted to have a chance to see them play this year. Being a Trevor fan, being able to see him was an added bonus.
So I got a ticket, took the days off and drove down.
The game didn’t disappoint.
Iowa won — which I figured they would — and Trevor played very well. He led USD with 16 points and added six rebounds against the Big Ten school.
Of course, I didn’t get to sit court side like I did for years while watching Trevor, nor did I get a post-game interview. But it brought back memories. I thought about watching him play at the state tournament. I remembered the shy sophomore who was dominating opposing teams. I remembered the confident senior who was a Mr. Basketball finalist.
I’m confident Trevor will have another fantastic season. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to watch him play again this year, but I am glad I took the trip to Iowa City. Sure, it was a long drive, but it was worth it for the chance to see Trevor play once again.