Update: Lack of size doesn’t shake Hayfield’s Kramer

Published 7:46 pm Sunday, July 31, 2011

When Hayfield grad Tanner Kramer arrived on Wartburg College’s campus last year, it didn’t take him long to find out things were going to be different on the basketball court.

Kramer, who scored 1,189 points in his career at Hayfield, realized he was now playing with men and he was one of the smallest ones.

Hayfield grad Tanner Kramer calls a play while playing for Wartburg College last season. Kramer received plenty of playing time as a freshman and hopes to continue to contribute for the Knights this season. -- Photo provided by Wartburg College

But after starting out as a reserve, an injury brought him into the starting lineup and he finished the last 15 games in the starting five for the Knights.

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“I wasn’t ready to start and it kind of just fell into my hands,” Kramer, who will be a sophomore at Wartburg this fall, said. “I was a little scared at first, but at the end of the season, I was comfortable walking out there with the big guys. It was a great feeling to actually hear my name in the starting lineup.”

Those big guys didn’t always give Kramer the respect that a 1,000 point scorer in high school usually commands. He was often underestimated due to his lack of size and he even heard the Luther team calling him weasel during a game.

“When you’re little like me, you’ve got to outsmart the big guys and I like doing that,” Kramer, who averaged 3.6 points and 1.8 assists, while shooting 40 percent on threes, said. “I’ve heard a lot of little guy jokes, but it’s motivating. It’s a great feeling when people think you’re the smallest guy and you’re no good and you make a three and they say ‘this little guy, he can score a little bit.’”

While Kramer found his comfort on the court, he also found the game to be a lot more physical and he said he needs to work on handling the ball under pressure. The time commitment is also much greater at the next level as Kramer has spent a good portion of his summer playing with his brothers in the Twin Cities to prepare for next season — when he may or may not be in the starting lineup.

“The old starter will be back (from his injury), but it’s whoever works the hardest,” Kramer said. “I’m fine coming off the bench and whatever the coach wants, I’ll do.”

While college life can be tough for an incoming freshman — especially for athletes — Kramer was fortunate to have a helping hand in fellow Hayfield grad Leslie Wilson, who has played for the Knights women’s basketball team for the past three years.

“We’re great friends and we help each other out,” Kramer said. “If she doesn’t shoot the ball, I’ll tell her when to shoot the ball. She’s like my sideline coach when she’s up in the stands and she’ll tell me what to do better.”

Wartburg was 10-14 overall and it didn’t make the conference tournament, but the Knights hope that changes next season as they bring back all but one player from last year’s squad.

“It’s a great school and the basketball program is on the rise. Hopefully we can make the conference championship and win it next year,” Kramer said.