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After a year off, Notre Dame High’s Dusty Stromer is ready to make big impact

Dusty Stromer of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame
Dusty Stromer of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame is back for his junior season in basketball after taking a year off to hone his game.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)
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When Dusty Stromer was last seen playing for Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High as a freshman during the 2019-20 season, his wavy blond hair was long enough to touch his shoulders and his main job was shooting three-pointers. Yes, lots of people were promoting him as a future star, but you don’t reach that level as a one-dimensional player.

COVID-19 arrived in March 2020, and Stromer disappeared for almost a year. He didn’t attend Notre Dame in 2020-21. He didn’t play in any high school basketball games. His school studies happened on a computer. The rest of the time, it was training on his own.

“I took my whole sophomore year off to train almost a year in the middle of COVID,” he said. “I tried to get as good as I can. It was definitely tough, especially seeing all my peers get attention because they were playing when I wasn’t. I tried to trust the process and understand that all the work I was putting in would show up when I come back.”

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One of the greatest indicators of work ethic is what someone does when no one is watching. It’s clear that Stromer didn’t just sit on the couch at home playing video games. He was in a gym, on a court or in a backyard every day training.

“When you’re training all day, I felt a pretty fast change in my game and getting better and better,” he said.

He also had to sacrifice hanging out with his family in the house. He was living in a tent in the backyard to make sure his grandmother and others were not threatened by COVID while he was training outside the family home.

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The proof was seen during the summer when he helped his travel ball team, Team WhyNot, win the prestigious 16U Peach Jam championship in South Carolina.

“He played really tough, was multifaceted, made shots, made athletic plays, rebounded, made winning plays all the time,” said Fairfax coach Reggie Morris Jr., who coached Stromer on the travel team. “He has the chance to be very good and go as far as he wants to go. Some kids fell off during the pandemic and some progressed. He expanded his game.”

It is eye-opening to see the transformation in Stromer. He has gone from 6 feet 4 to 6-7 and from 165 pounds to 180. He is rebounding and blocking shots while still making threes on a consistent basis.

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“My game has changed a lot,” he said. “I’ve always been able to shoot since I was a kid. I always try to be as effective as possible. Now I’m working on other aspects of my game.”

His game has changed so much that scholarship offers came rolling in from UCLA, Louisville and others. Stromer has proved he no longer is just a shooter and embraces versatility as his strength.

“I feel I can play one through four position wise and I feel I can guard one through four,” he said. “It’s been what I’ve been working on to be able to do anything I can to help my team win.”

Notre Dame coach Matt Sargeant is going to be the beneficiary of Stromer’s development. The Knights finished sixth out of seven teams in the Mission League last season. They have improved so much that when the season begins this week, they could be the biggest threat to Studio City Harvard-Westlake for the league title.

The Knights’ goal is to take at least 40 threes a game, and Stromer will be key in providing rebounding and scoring while being asked to be a defensive stopper.

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Sargeant said Stromer has always shown flashes of being more than just a shooter. It’s just now he has become consistent in contributing in other facets of basketball.

“I think those elements of his game were always there,” Sargeant said. “The time spent on his body and the growth he’s made from 15 to 17 years old. … I think he grew up and got a sense of who he is and what he is capable of.”

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