On March 20, 2021, the De Smet Bulldogs proved they were the champs without a doubt. With the championship trophy sitting on a school shelf, the awards and recognition for the team and coaches are still coming in.
The Lake Central Conference (LCC) made their 2020-2021 Boys Basketball All Conference selections. Fourteen players were selected, and De Smet had three players chosen. Kalen Garry, a junior guard, along with Cody Cavanaugh, a senior guard, and Rett Osthus, a junior guard, were all selected for the LCC honor.
Dakota Valley Conference (DVC) released their final standings for the 2020-2021 season. The De Smet Bulldogs placed first in the conference with a record of 8-0 in conference play. Garry was named the Most Valuable Player for the conference, and Head Coach Jeff Gruenhagen received the title of Coach of the Year. Dakota Valley Conference’s First Team selections from De Smet were Garry and Osthus. The Second Team selection from De Smet was Ethan McCune, a senior forward. Tory Holland, a junior forward, was selected for the Third Team. Cavanaugh received Honorable Mention.
Garry, Osthus and Damon Wilkinson, a sophomore center, were all named to the State B All-Tournament Team for their performances in Aberdeen. Garry was named to the First Team - All State Class B, and Osthus was named to the Second Team - All State Class B.
Garry was the Midco Sports Class B Player of the Year. He was also named to the Argus Leader First Five, the five best players in all three classes of basketball. Garry, De Smet’s all-time leading scorer, was a finalist for the Keloland Media Group Player of the Year. He also was awarded Dakota Wesleyan University’s Culver’s Classic Most Valuable Player and received an Honorable Mention in the Class B 2011-2020 South Dakota’s All Decade Boys Basketball Team.
Garry was awarded the Class B Player of the Year by the South Dakota High School Basketball Coaches Association (SDHSBBCA). He was also named to the Class B First Team while Osthus was named to the SDHSBBCA Second Team.
McCune was selected as Academic All State. On top of his talents on the court, this player has excelled in the classroom, too. Playing four years of basketball, McCune has managed to maintain a 3.5 or better GPA. Boys’ basketball statistician, Noah Roth, was also named to the Academic All State. He has been with the team three years and maintained a 3.5 or better GPA.
Head Coach, Jeff Gruenhagen, has earned not only the DVC title of Coach of the Year, but he also earned the South Dakota High School Basketball Coaches Association award as Coach of the Year for Region Two and Class B on April 12.
“That is a great honor to have,” said Gruenhagen. “To know that my peers and other coaches think I am doing a good job to be up there at the top of that list. That is kind of fun, you know it does not carry a lot of weight, but it is just fun that the other teams think that I am doing good.”
Coaching awards are nice, but sometimes the greatest rewards come from watching the players develop on and off the court.
“Seeing the kids grow and develop into good young people whether that was boys or girls when I am coaching them,” Coach Gruenhagen said. “You want to see them graduate high school with a good grasp on reality. If you work hard, good things will come to you regardless of your record, or how good your team was. You want them to develop good relationships with the other players and the coaches and come out of there with lifelong friends and memories.”
When asked about low points in his coaching career, Gruenhagen countered by saying there never were low points, just learning experiences. He said he went to college to study and be an accountant and not a coach. He did see coaching as a way to give back to his community. Coaching requires a tremendous amount of dedication and commitment. Gruenhagen considers himself to be blessed to work with Coach McCune. He ran a lot of ideas off McCune and valued his input.
Coaching always brings surprises, and this season was no exception for Gruenhagen. He recalls the incident when Damon Wilkinson had a hunting accident, and the way he came back. He also cited watching the younger players step into some of the bigger games, and you find yourself pleasantly surprised.
“It shows me that once kids set their minds to do something, that some of them are just determined to get it done,” said Gruenhagen. “It is a fun thing to watch. When they accomplish those goals and they reach or try as hard as they can, and it works out for them, it is a great thing to watch.”
When looking ahead to next season, Gruenhagen shared his thoughts.
“We have a lot of guys coming back. We expect to be right in the same boat as one of the best teams in Class B, and there will be some other teams that have young players that will come back and we will have to work hard, but I expect to get into the tournament again.”
The team will have three starters returning for next season. Wilkinson will return as a junior, and he is 6'9" now and may even be taller by the beginning of next season.
“I think we are going to have a really good team next year,” said Gruenhagen.
“It is fun for me, it is a lot of work, a lot of hours, but it’s the same for those guys as they are putting in the work and the hours,” said Gruenhagen. “I figured that as long as I can do it, if I can help them, then I will try to continue doing it no matter what the time commitment is. I have a lot of people that helped me out just as I would help the players. I got guys that helped me get my work done and make sure things are taken care of. They know how important basketball is in a small town, too. So, they are willing to cover some extra hours when I cannot be at the farm and that has made it nice for me.”
Teamwork, it’s everyone working together to accomplish a common goal. It should prove to be another exciting season.