Player of the Year: Big offseason propels Rushin to stellar senior season

Brainerd's Griffin Rushin is 2021 Brainerd Dispatch Player of the Year

Brainerd's Griffin Rushin dunks the ball during a game against Alexandria Feb. 19, 2021, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Sometimes it’s what a player does when no one is watching that makes them take the next step.

Brainerd senior Griffin Rushin credits his summer in the weight room getting faster and stronger for his final season in a Brainerd uniform.

The St. John’s University commit finished with 369 points (21.7 per game), 150 rebounds (8.8 per game), 40 assists (2.4 per game), 15 steals and 32 blocked shots. He shot 53% (138-261) from the field, 39% (36-93) from 3-point and 85% (57-67) from the free throw line to earn 2021 Brainerd Dispatch Player of the Year.

“All the stuff I did in the fall and summer this year really helped me with my success this year,” Rushin said. “All the weights and shooting and all the summer and fall tournaments.”

Last season, Rushin was named Dispatch All-Area honorable mention with 298 points (11.5 per game), 127 rebounds (4.9 per game), 35 assists (1.3 per game) and 46% shooting.


“Having been around him for four years now, you could see it build from year to year,” Warriors head coach Charlie Schoeck said. “He’s the type of guy who’s honest with himself and really knows that every season there was something he needed to work on. You saw that year after year and he would improve on the weak areas in his game. By the end of this summer, you could tell that in terms of a high school basketball player those holes were fewer and fewer. It’s a credit to all the work he’s put in and the hours he put in with no one watching.”

Rushin made his presence known early, scoring 30 points against Sartell and 28 against Alexandria in the first two games for Brainerd.

In Game Three, Rushin scored his season-high 33 points against St. Cloud Apollo which was the start of a 14-game winning streak to end the regular season.

“We were able to put in some more quick-hitting plays where we liked him,” Schoeck said. “We liked him on the low block with some cross screens or the high post or running him off a couple of screens for a corner 3. There were a couple of things we tried to do to open him up, but he’s so aware of what spots he’s effective at on the court. He’s looking to get to those spots within the offense.”

It wasn’t just the scoring column where Rushin made his impact. He led the team in rebounding, including five games with double-digit boards.

“That was one area in his game where you’ve been able to see the aggressiveness really increase,” Schoeck said. “Another part of it is IQ. He’s aware of where that shot is coming from and where the miss is coming off the rim.”

Rushin scored double digits in every game with his season-low being 10 points in a win against Rocori. He wasn’t inefficient with his scoring output as he was second on the team in field goal percentage, third in 3-point percentage and first in free throw percentage.

“A few plays this year were run for specific looks,” Rushin said. “Whoever the look was for we’d run that play for that person. My teammates found me a lot and I’d just convert it.”


The Warriors used every bit of his 85% free throw shooting in a key section win over St. Michael Albertville where Rushin went 9-for-10 from the line.

No matter where Rushin was on the offensive end if he took a shot it was most likely a good one.

“I had all the confidence in the world in him,” Schoeck said. “He’s earned the right to take those shots.”

At 6-foot-7, Rushin’s long arms make him seem seven feet tall when he’s protecting the rim. Rushin led the team in blocked shots with a season-high four coming against Bemidji.

“To be a really good shot blocker you can't go for a lot of fakes and you have to know when to jump and what move a guy is trying to do,” Schoeck said. “It speaks to his basketball acumen to go for the block in the right context. You see a lot of guys try to swat at everything and you’re not going to get every block.”

Although the Warriors season ended prematurely in the Section 8-4A semifinals, Brainerd earned the No. 1 seed in the section playoffs with a 14-2 record. The team chemistry made the Warriors dangerous as a group.

“This season was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball,” Rushin said. “We were all hanging out every day. We’d go out to eat with each other. Hang out at each other's houses. The chemistry between us was really good.”

As a leader, Rushin became more vocal.


“That was really a challenge for him,” Schoeck said. “Anyone who knows Griffin knows that he is a quieter guy by nature. So that was another part of the maturity process that was cool to see was how vocal he became with his teammates and coaches. The chemistry aspect helps. It’s easier to lead when everyone is working toward the same goal.”

Rushin is excited for the opportunity to play at the next level at St. John’s.

“Right now, I’m just working on the strength part,” he said. “Then just getting in the gym and getting in shooting workouts.”

Schoeck’s favorite Rushin moment was when he coached Rushin on the freshman team.

“This group of guys had always struggled against Alexandria,” Schoeck said. “That freshman season, we lost our first game to Alexandria at home. We went to Alexandria toward the end of the season and Griffin hit a 3-pointer to win the game. You know, it’s little things like that all the way back to freshman year that gave you a glimpse into how great a high school basketball player Griffin could be.”

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or Follow on Twitter at


Past Players of the Year

2019-20: Peter Schommer, Pierz

2018-19: Joey Sauer, Brainerd

2017-18: *No player selected*

2016-17: Michael Russell, Brainerd; Noah Gindorff, C-I

2015-16: Kobe Ahonen, Brainerd

2014-15: *No player selected*

2013-14: Nathan Ehnstrom, Ait


2012-13: Jack Sauer, Brainerd

2011-12: Caleb Janson, Pierz

2010-11: Kurtis Moody, PL

2009-10: Dan Kornbaum, LF; Mark Hoge, C-I

2008-09: Kornbaum LF

2007-08: Bryce Tesdahl, C-I

2006-07: Bryce Tesdahl, C-I

2005-06: Tucker Sheley, PL


2004-05: Brett Dickie, C-I

2003-04: Ben Stoll, Pillager

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