|Kizmahr Grell '09 was a force on Dickinson's basketball squad and has the drive to go to the next level in Europe. Photo by James Rasp.
During a visit to his former high school, The Gunnery School in New York, Tony Rogers '65 made an unplanned stop to see the newly renovated gym, but something else caught his attention.
“I heard about this kid on the basketball team who was looking at F&M and other schools in the area, and I said, ‘That's ridiculous. He should be looking at Dickinson,' ” Rogers recalls. The kid was Kizmahr “Kiz” Grell '09, and Rogers soon learned that Grell was one of the school's brightest stars.
“I had the opportunity to watch him practice that day, and I could see just how special he was,” Rogers says. “He was clearly the best on the team but also working much harder than anybody else.”
Rogers contacted Dennis Csensits, then-head coach of Dickinson's basketball team. They arranged for Rogers to escort Grell to Dickinson for a visit. Grell met with members of the admissions and athletics staff, and it was unanimous—the fit was perfect.
“I owe him everything,” Grell says of Rogers. “He went out of his way to get me to campus, which made a huge difference.”
Once Grell entered Dickinson, Csensits watched him evolve.
“He came in to Dickinson and, athletically, you could tell from the beginning that he was a step quicker, a little more athletic, than most guys we recruit,” Csensits says. “His skill wasn't up to the level of his athleticism, but he developed a great work ethic and made himself into one heck of a player.”
Grell was team captain and team MVP his junior and senior years. He achieved impressive individual rankings, including second in career free-throws (339), third in career three-point field goals (134) and first-team All-Centennial Conference (CC).
“I'd say my greatest accomplishment is the team making the playoffs for the first time [in 2008],” Grell says. “Individual achievements only take you so far. It was so amazing to see how we advanced as a team and came together to get out of a slump of not making it to the postseason.”
For his individual work as point guard and his team efforts, Grell was at the top of the CC, and a basketball career in Europe became possible for the English major. He had an advantage over the competition, since his mother is from the Netherlands. Even though Grell lived his entire life in New York, he is a dual Dutch-U.S. citizen. Since European teams have restrictions on how many strictly American players they can have on the roster, Grell has a better chance.
“Athletically, I thought early on that Kiz had the ability to go to Europe and play professionally,” Csensits says. “Midway through his junior year, I saw him make some significant gains, and it hit me that, hey, this is a reality! There were a few other elite players in the CC at the time who got the opportunity to go to Europe, and Kiz used that as a motivator to take that next step when he was a senior.”
That step was getting professional representation.
“I sent tapes to several agents,” Grell explains. “They assess your talent and see whether or not you're marketable.” The director of European Organizations for CourtSide Global Management and Representation signed Grell. “His job is to go around Europe and tell teams about my availability. They contact him, and he tells me about offers.”
By late September, Grell had received offers from teams in Greece, Spain, Hungary and—the city where he'd really been hoping to play—Amsterdam. His new team, Eclipse Jet-MyGuide Amsterdam, “is a very, very competitive team in Europe.”
According to Csensits, this is not an opportunity that knocks often in Division III.
“He'll definitely be in the middle to upper-level [European] leagues,” he says. “Most kids in D-III would be in the lower level, and it would be more of a cultural experience than anything. He's in a position now where he could have a very nice career over there.”
Adds Rogers, the alumnus who matched Grell with Dickinson, “Playing basketball in Europe has always been a dream of his. It will be a wonderful experience that will last him the rest of his life.”