Sjuts brothers realize driveway dreams
There’s no telling just how many times Tyler, Jacob and Jason Sjuts had lived the championship moment that came Saturday in Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family’s Class D-1 title game victory over Fremont Bergan.
As brothers who’ve played with and against each other in all levels of basketball, it didn’t take too much imagining for the trio to think up a scenario where they walked off the court together at Pinnacle Bank Arena with gold medals around their necks.
It was a moment played out dozens of times in pick up games and friendly, and sometimes, not so friendly, contests on the driveway.
All of it led up to Saturday afternoon when dreams became reality.
“We all love the game and we’re all so competitive,” Jason said. “I think those two-on-two games in the middle of the summer got us here, made each other better.”
“They usually went with the two older guys against me and Jacob, but we still usually beat them.”
Jacob, a freshman and twin to Jason, hit the most memorable shot of the game - a bouncing 3-pointer that sat on the back iron before rolling in early in the fourth quarter.
It stretched H/LHF’s lead to seven and forced a Bergan timeout. Tyler, a junior, then hit another 3 with a slight glance off the glass for a 10-point cushion and the first nail in the coffin.
Jacob finished with a team-high 15 points and three makes from beyond the arc. Tyler had five points and Jason two.
The day before, in a semifinal win over Paxton, it was Jason with 14, Jacob scoring nine and Tyler four. Jason also led in Thursday’s quarterfinal victory with 15 points while Tyler had seven and Jacob six.
Their father/Humphrey Superintendent Greg Sjuts has coached the three at several levels of basketball. When not in organized leagues, as Jason said, it was normally those three plus junior teammate Bret Hanis on Hanis’ driveway.
“We’d go over to Bret’s house, play a little two-on-two and it’s always been competitive with us, but we’re all brothers, and Bret’s like a brother to us,” Jacob said in the press conference after the game. “It’s just really special.”
Playing on the driveway usually meant chalking out the 3-point line and whatever other marks deemed necessary. The boys played to 50, though often longer when the team behind requested a 10-point extension.
“Or there was a fight or something, then it ended,” Jason joked.
Jason led the team in scoring for the season at just over 11 points per game while Tyler and Jacob were both about even at 7.9 and 7.8, respectively.
Jason and Jacob normally came off the bench as the first two subs. The graduation of starting seniors Turner Beller and Dylan and Ethan Hanzel likely means the Sjuts will be in the starting lineup next season, along with regular driveway foe/teammate Hanis.
“It’s everything. Family is everything to me. To be able to go to the championship with them, it means the world to me,” Tyler said Thursday after the win over Paxton.
“I’ve always wanted that as a kid.”
As the oldest and the lone starter among the three, Tyler has the most varsity experience among the trio. But as Jacob and Jason showed right away this season, they’ve got what it takes to impact every game.
Now, Tyler just tries to stay out of the way and be a calming influence.
“It’s great to see them grow in the game and see them play at the level they’re at as only freshman,” he said. “I just try to keep them in line, keep their emotions in line. They have the skill and do the rest. I just keep them in line.”
But of course, it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows along the way. Sharing a household with talented siblings can make for an interesting dynamic when the Sjutses don’t see eye to eye.
“We can get pretty dang competitive when we play sports with one another,” Tyler said. “Eventually, we come together and win games together, but we’re very competitive.”
Teammates see it in practice almost daily. Whatever one of the Sjuts brothers does well, the others always try to one-up him.
It forces them to stay at the top of their game. The result is one heck of a weapon few other teams can match.
“They know each other so well. When you start to learn how to play with one of them, you figure out how to play with them all,” senior Turner Beller said. “But they’re very competitive with one another. When one does one good thing, the others always try to do something better.”
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org