Mar. 18—SIOUX FALLS — Mount Vernon/Plankinton's Reed Rus was well aware of the history entering Saturday night.
In three previous appearances at the Class A state basketball tournament, the Titans had a senior win the prestigious Spirit of Su award. And Rus, who was a student manager for those MVP squads, hoped he'd be the fourth.
Those hopes and dreams came true at the Premier Center, as Rus was named the award winner making the Titans a perfect 4-for-4 for winners and state apperances.
Rus joins Cody Renken (2015), Tate Deinert (2016) and Devin Rihanek (2017) as past Titan winners of the award in Class A.
"Knowing that the guys I was watching as a waterboy and guys that I looked up to and wanted to be like as a kid, to be listed with them, it's a very special feeling," Rus said.
The award, sponsored by the South Dakota Fraternal Order of Police, recognizes an outstanding senior state-tournament athlete who exemplifies the life of SuAnne Big Crow, the Lakota basketball star from Pine Ridge who was killed in a car crash in 1992. Student-athletes are recognized for athletic ability, sportsmanship, leadership, character and academic ability and must be nominated by their coaches. MVP coach Eric Denning said Rus fits the bill in every way.
"He is such a great role model in our school and he's just a kid that has outstanding character and a great leader," Denning said. "He's the face of our school in a lot of ways. I'm very proud of him and the honor."
That community pride manifested itself after Rus received the award, with his teammates cheering wildly, and dozens of Titans fans spilling into the corner of the arena floor to celebrate with Rus and take photos.
Denning noted that Rus is a genuine student who treats people the right away. Rus said he wasn't sure he'd win but felt that Denning's track record with the award would give him a chance. Denning has coached basketball for 26 seasons for Mount Vernon, including 11 for the MVP co-op and all four Spirit of Su winners.
"I knew that Mr. Denning had players that won it all three times when I was a water boy, so I knew that the way he runs his program is respected," Rus said. "You have to give credit to him and the way he raises us as young men. Every day in practice and the culture of the team he's built, the way he teaches, it's pretty awesome what he's done."
For the state tournament, Rus averaged 23 points and nine rebounds and played all but eight minutes of the 96 minutes of game action for the tournament. He capped it with 21 points, 15 rebounds and six assists against Hot Springs in Saturday's seventh-place game. During the season, he averaged 18.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. He finishes his career as MVP's career leader in almost every notable statistic, including points, rebounds, assists and steals.
In addition to basketball, he's committed to play college football at the University of South Dakota and is a talented track and field athlete, as well.
"It's been really fun," Rus said of his senior basketball season. "The state tournament and the whole year has been really successful and I couldn't be more thankful for having this experience."