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Rivals make good friends, better training partners
July 07, 2016 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez

Gering senior Trey Winkler and Scottsbluff senior Dru Kuxhausen play a game of one-on-one at the Scottsbluff YMCA on July 3, in preparation for the upcoming basketball season. Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen

Dru, short for Andru J. Kuxhausen, and Trey Winkler play basketball on opposite sides of the North Platte River at the center of a rivalry as old as Gering and Scottsbluff. Yet, that doesn’t stop them from meeting almost daily to practice at the Scottsbluff YMCA.

Dru, the son of A.J. and Jennifer Carnes of Scottsbluff, and Trey Winkler, the son of Rick and Laurie of Gering, grew up together. And no rivalry, no matter how bitter, will likely separate the two.

Trey shoots threes, and likes to be a shifty dribbler. He admires Kyrie Irving and Allen Iverson, but doesn’t follow the NBA much. He’s more a fan of John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, a college factory of one-and-done players that go on to impact the NBA. Dru appreciates the three-point aim of Golden State’s Klay Thompson, one half of the Splash Brothers, though he’s a true-blue fan of the Detroit Pistons, renowned for their bad boys. Speaking of … There is a bit of attitude in both Trey and Dru.

This cross pollination of influences, included coaches and each other. Making an impression, AAU Coach Brian Marso has mentored Dru since he was
7 right up to last season.

“He always gets the best out of everyone,” Dru said. “He’ll push you until you don’t have anything left, and he’ll stand up and fight for you.”

Trey is grateful for his dad, Rick, who coached his travel teams in grades 3 through 5. “He taught me the fundamentals of the sport,” a good foundation for his budding skills. Then while growing up watching his older brother Taylor play at Scottsbluff, he caught the bug. “I watched them win, and go to state. We also had Little Tikes, an indoor plastic hoop and shot at it with a Nerf ball.” From those early days, Trey has been relentlessly training. After games, “Dad will help. If I had a bad game, he’ll lift me up, and tell me what I can do better next time,” he said. For Dru, the best coaching advice to stick in his head was to forget the bad plays. “They taught me to have a short memory, and go on to the next play,” he said.

Dru has helped Trey with his shots and form, footwork, turning his wrists on the follow through, while Trey has taught him to be a better ball handler, and making a first good move off the dribble.
Both are on the same mission to get to the next level. “I’m looking to gain some weight, and get strong, to jump higher and dunk,” Trey said. Meanwhile Dru’s goal is more fundamental; he’ll work “on ball handling, and creating space.”

When Trey finished junior high school, and his older brother Taylor, a star on the Bearcats squad, graduated, Trey decided he wanted to play for Gering. Since that time, the boys have remained good friends, and play together almost every day. Both admittedly have short fuses, because of their huge passion to win. During their self-imposed practices, they push each other in drills and play their favorite game, King of the Court, usually with three or four players. The player with the ball goes until a defender stops him, then the defender takes over possession. The first one to 7 points wins. Self-professed gym rats, they’ll go for five or six hours straight, except on school nights.

Both will be seniors at their respective schools, working to make themselves better and their teams better. Both are 17, yet Trey still looks like he’s fresh out of junior high school. That’s when he first took an interest in playing basketball and vowed to get better at it, watching Taylor play for the Scottsbluff Bearcats during the 2012-2013 season when the team bore the No. 1 rank in the state. The Cats ended up as Class B runner-up, a year after winning it all. That year, Gering was only a handful of teams to have beaten the mighty Bearcats in a 55-33 runaway upset.

Last season, it was a different story. The Bulldogs lost all three regular season games to the rivals.

While Dru is a shooting guard, Trey has led the Bulldogs at point guard. By comparison, with Dru at 6-foot and 185 pounds, and Trey at 5-foot-9, and 155 pounds, it seems like an unfair match, but they still play with an intense desire to get better.

They first met each other in fifth grade on a travelling team at a tournament in Laramie (Wyoming). Then, coaches for Gering and Scottsbluff in 2011, brought players from Scottsbluff and Gering together. The Twin Cities team ended up winning the tourney.

Dru was a bright spot for the Cats last year, setting a single-season scoring record with 613 total points that helped Scottsbluff to an 18-4 regular season finish. He averaged nearly 22 points per game, shot 45.1 percent (93 of 206) from behind the arc, and finished the season shooting 90.7 percent (138 of 152) at the free-throw line. Dru tied his own school record for most 3-pointers in one game with 10. He also finished as the team leader with 83 assists, 45 steals, and 158 rebounds.

Trey ended the season with 12 points per game, averaged 2 assists, and made 41 percent of his three point shots, helping the Dogs to a 15-8 overall record, and (3-6 in Districts).

Next year, the Bearcats have a chance to extend their District run to seven years, and eight titles in nine years.

Their goals for the upcoming season are the same. Last year, Scottsbluff kept alive a streak of district championships to cap the season, while making a serious bid for the state title. While several seniors have left some pretty big shoes, literally, several talented young players, such as Dru, will be stepping up to fill the gaps. He hopes to duplicate the accomplishments of this past season, but instead this time, finish on top. Meanwhile, his training partner has the same goals. “I want to end Scottsbluff’s streak at Districts, and for Gering to win it all,” Trey said.

Growing up and training together won’t stop them. Giving their all in a game against each other, all bets are off. Though the two, representing crosstown rivals, hang out as best friends do, fans won’t be seeing any of that on the court.

Because all Dru and Trey want to do is win.
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