Photo caption: Snow College basketball players (l-r) Connor Van Brocklin (University of Utah), Cheikh Sane (Marshall University) and Nick Gruninger (UC Riverside) commit to play basketball next season. The sophomores led the Badgers to a 22-10 record this season, losing 86-75 in the SWAC championship game to No. 5 ranked Salt Lake Community College.
EPHRAIM, Utah—Three sophomore players from Snow College’s men’s basketball team committed to play for Division I programs next season on National Letter of Intent Day. The players are point guard Nick Gruninger (University of California Riverside), Cheikh Sane (Marshall University) and Connor Van Brocklin (University of Utah).
“It’s an exciting day for Snow College to see three student-athletes going to D-I programs,” said Snow head coach and athletic director Rob Nielson. “It has already had a positive impact on our recruiting for next year.”
Gruninger, a 5’10” point guard from Davis High School (Kaysville, Utah) ran the Badger offense this past season dishing out an average of 5.2 assists while scoring 13.1 points per game and shooting over 90 percent from the free throw line. He was selected to the Scenic West (SWAC) All Conference First Team.
At UC Riverside Gruninger will be joining a program which is losing its point guard and has several returning freshman guards who did not get much game experience this past year. “Coach (Jim) Wooldridge told me he is looking for someone to come in with a lot of experience who can calm things down when it gets exciting and show some leadership,” said Gruninger. UC Riverside plays in the strong Big West Conference with teams such as Long Beach State and Hawaii, and played a strong non-conference schedule with powerhouse opponents such as DePaul and Southern Cal.
Sane, 6’9” post player from Dakar, Senegal, showed tremendous improvement throughout this past season, starting with an average of 8.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game through the Badgers’ non-conference schedule, but upping his numbers to 12.2 points and 9.6 rebounds during in the Scenic West Athletic Conference. His efforts earned him selection on the SWAC All Conference First Team.
Sane is excited to join Marshall 7’2” senior big man Yous Mbao who is also from Senegal. Mbao suffered a knee injury this past season and it is unknown whether he will be ready to play come fall. “I am looking forward to a great relationship with Coach (Tom) Herrion and getting a good education,” Sane said. Marshall (Huntington, W.Va.) plays in Conference USA and was invited to the NIT following the 2011-12 season when the Thundering Herd finished 21-14 and recorded wins over Memphis and West Virginia. This past season was a down year for the Herd as injuries helped lower their record to 13-19.
Van Brocklin has committed to walk-on at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The 6’5” swing man (guard/forward) from Fruit Heights, Utah, also played at Davis High School where Gruninger prepped. A deadly outside shooter, Van Brocklin led the Badgers in scoring this season with an average of 15.9 points per game including an average of 2.5 three-pointers per game. “I will have a chance to fight for a spot and try to earn a scholarship this fall,” said Van Brocklin, a Second Team All-SWAC selection this year.
Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak told Van Brocklin that he needs “a shooter to come in this year.” The Utes finished 5-13 in the PAC-12 (15-18 overall), one of the nation’s power conferences, and made a run in the conference tournament in Las Vegas, beating USC and California before finally losing to No. 19 ranked Oregon who they had beaten by 10 a week earlier in the final game of the regular season.
“I’m going to miss all three of them,” said Nielson. “They’re good kids and they worked very hard to earn these opportunities.”
Snow College, the oldest two-year college west of the Mississippi, was founded in 1888 and plays basketball in the highly respected Scenic West Athletic Conference (SWAC). Snow, which has a second campus in Richfield, Utah, has a total enrollment of 4,500 students. This past season Snow’s men’s basketball team finished with an overall record of 22-10, finishing third in the SWAC, and was ranked as high as No. 20 nationally in the NJCAA poll.
-- Doug Johnson, Snow College Sports Information Dept., Ephraim, UT (435) 283-7320