It would be easy to be blinded by the explosion of offense Griffin Rushin is displaying through four games.
The Brainerd Warriors boys basketball player is averaging 28.2 points per game and shooting 56% from the field and 91% from the line to help the Warriors to a 2-2 start. He’s twice surpassed 30 points in a game and his lowest point total of 22 points came in an exciting, last-second victory over Fergus Falls, Friday, Jan. 22.
But there’s more to Rushin’s game than just scoring. As Brainerd head coach Charlie Schoeck wants everyone to know — Rushin is the complete basketball player.
“He leads by example and that's more his MO than being vocal,” Schoeck said. “He’s not a loud guy by nature, but guys follow his lead. For him, to just do whatever it takes to win, that’s his singular mindset. He’s a very good defender and we typically don’t like to start the game with him on one of the other team’s better players just to save some energy for him.
“We saw it in the last two games, where against Apollo (one of their guys) was getting hot so we switched Griffin to him late in the game and that was a game-changer. That potentially won the game for us. Then for him to guard Mason Aguilar for the duration of the game, for the most part, on Friday just shows his complete game — how well-rounded he is and his willingness to do whatever it takes for us to get a win.”
It hasn’t come easy for the senior captain. Rushin has worked hard on his game and not just in season. The varsity veteran spends hours during the offseason working on all aspects of his game.
“This whole summer me and my friends were in the gym doing basketball stuff almost every single day,” Rushin said. “It’s good to see that it’s paid off. The whole summer was meant to get stronger and better and then just get ready for the season. It really helped out.”
Rushin was lifting weights three or four times a week and shooting every day. He said he and his teammates went through a shooting workout where they would start close to the basket and work out farther from the hoop. They would also work on dribble penetration and spot-up shooting.
The strength workouts were split into getting stronger, but also quicker. For an hour each workout, Rushin concentrated on speed and agility. Those exercises have created a noticeable improvement in Rushin’s foot speed, which has turned the 6-foot-7 forward into a defensive stopper.
“Last year, I had to try really hard and this year it’s almost natural,” Rushin said. “I just watch the offensive guy and I’ll get to each sport faster than I was last year.”
That speed is also noticeable in Rushin’s stats other than scoring. He’s averaging 8.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 blocks and almost a steal a game.
It’s these stats he’s most proud of right now.
“Some of the defensive stuff like blocks,” Rushin said. “I think I have one or two of those a game and then just the defensive stops. People sometimes look over because everybody just looks at points.
“Those are really important because you can’t win if you don’t play defense. I think if we have really good defense we’re going to win a lot of games.”
The offseason workouts not only helped on the court, but off the court as the team built good chemistry despite COVID-19 restrictions hindering normal bonding exercises teams go through.
“We’re just encouraging everybody,” Rushin said. “Most of us hung out every day this summer so we really know each other. We know that anybody on this team can step up and do whatever it takes to help us win.”
The Warriors’ team motto is “We is greater than me.” Schoeck said Rushin and the other captains have done a good job fostering that mentality despite the limitations facing this year’s team. But Rushin is giving his teammates and himself something even more valuable — confidence.
“It seems to be pretty high and a mark of good confidence in a player is; if you see a couple of looks that didn’t go down that you thought should have, to step up into that next shot with that same confidence and let it go,” Schoeck said. “His confidence is at a high and it helps, too, that our team is very supportive of everybody. If any guy makes a mistake or misses a shot they all have his back and are rallying behind him.”
Rushin knows defenses will be more focused on him as the season progresses. He’s ready for that challenge. Instead of being a one-dimensional offensive threat, Rushin has diversified his offense.
“I’ve worked on a lot of one-dribble pull-ups and driving to the hoop this summer,” Rushin said. “In the games, I’ve noticed that has really helped. I can get to the hoop and finish over people and shoot over people, too.
“If I get double-teamed or it’s not my night, I know I have people around me that can do just as great of things as I’ve been doing.”
Rushin said he’s been a bit surprised by his offensive output. About the only people not surprised are his coaches.
“We absolutely knew he was capable of it,” Schoeck said. “It’s a very tough thing to sustain that, but thus far he has been. It just speaks to the work he’s put in over the four years in high school and even prior to that. It’s quite an accomplishment to get off to this kind of start and hopefully, he can continue it.”
SEASON PREVIEW: Boys Basketball: New faces all over court for Warrior boys
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Other notable performances
Eric Pohlkamp, boys hockey, finished with a goal and an assist against Moorhead. He added a goal against River Lakes.
Max Roby, boys hockey, finished with a goal and an assist against Moorhead. He added an assist against River Lakes.
Cade Villwock, boys hockey, finished with a goal and an assist against River Lakes.
Izzy Olson, gymnastics, won the floor, bars and the all-around against Sauk Rapids.
Brenna Deason, gymnastics, won the vault and was second in the all-around against Sauk Rapids.
Mitchell Degen, boys basketball, finished with 26 points against Fergus Falls.
Easton Dircks, wrestling, finished 4-0 with a pin last week.
Kyle Eschenbacher, wrestling, finished 4-0 with two pins last week.
Isaiah Jillson, wrestling, finished 4-0 last week.
Liliana Schaeffer, Nordic skiing, won the Bemidji Invite in 13:39.
Nole Robertson, Nordic skiing, won the Bemidji Invite in 11:29.
Sport: Boys basketball
Career highlight: Brainerd’s last-second game-winner against Fergus Falls Friday, Jan. 22
Grade-point average: 4.0
Favorite class: Human biology
Favorite food: Chipotle
Favorite movie: “Hoosiers”
Favorite TV show: “Green Arrow”
Favorite website or app: Instagram
Future plans: Attend and play basketball at St. John’s University. Study exercise science or biology
Favorite athlete: Kevin Durant
Parents: Jennifer and Chad Rushin