Apple Valley’s Brock Bertram is tall, and he understands it’s the first thing anyone will notice about him. After all, there aren’t that many 7-footers playing high school basketball in Minnesota.
“It’s been that way my whole life,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve always been tall. I’m just used to it.”
Despite his eye-catching size, though, Bertram is still often overlooked.
He’s played in the shadow of talented teammates each season with the Eagles. He played two years with Tyus Jones, one of the best high school basketball players in the country and now with the Timberwolves. Now he plays with Jones’ younger brother, Tre, a sophomore and a national recruiting prospect in his own right. And junior Gary Trent Jr., one of the top players nationally in the 2017 class, scored 87 points in the Eagles’ first two games this year.
But there’s a lot more to him than height, Eagles coach Zach Goring said. Bertram uses his body well, plays strong defense, has a difficult-to-block shot and is a tireless worker.
It all adds up to a lot of success. He’s a senior who, entering South Suburban Conference play this year, has a 53-1 conference record over the past three seasons. He’s been a part of two Class 4A championship teams, including last season. He’s scored in double figures all four years.
Goring considers Bertram to be one of the state’s top seniors. He signed a national letter of intent to play next year at Buffalo, which made the NCAA tournament field last spring.
He also shows quite a bit of humility.
“It’s just been really fun to get to play with the great players I have,” he said. “A lot of us have grown up together. We’re like brothers. More than anything, it’s just great to go through all of this together.”
Expectations were high heading into this season for the Eagles, and they have impressed so far. Apple Valley won each of its first three games by big margins: 105-69 at Chanhassen in the season opener on Nov. 24, 96-79 against Minnetonka on Nov. 28 and 99-61 over Chaska on the road Tuesday.
For his part, Bertram has averaged a modest 11 points. He sat much of the final quarter in each contest once the victories were assured.
Patience is a virtue Bertram has learned when it comes to sharing the ball with such talented teammates.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s tough to not [touch the ball] for a while, but that’s part of it. … I never expected to play for such great teams, so you have to just enjoy it all.”
Goring said Bertram has become a leader for younger teammates, on and off the court. He’s a funny, likable kid who is easily coached. That attitude rubs off.
“It’s easy to get caught up in it and maybe not focus as well or something some days,” Bertram said. “But we really try to pride ourselves on working hard every day. There are always things we can get better at, and that’s what we focus on each game and practice.”
Playing in college next year is a goal Bertram has worked toward since he was an eighth-grader, when he already towered over opponents. It was the first time he started hearing interest from college coaches. As a 6-9 freshman, he started to believe his goal was achievable.
Before then, however, he’s looking to close out his high school career with one more championship run with his teammates.
“A [state championship] is the goal,” he said. “It’s exciting with this being my last year, to play with these guys I grew up with and see what we can do.”