Getting to know the Groves Bros

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Mckenzie Ford

Jacob and Tanner Groves cheer after a made basket. The Groves are key members off EWU’s bench.

By Drew Lawson, Sports Editor

The first time Tanner Groves drilled a contested three on one of his current teammates, he was just a kid playing in his driveway at home. The teammate was his younger brother, Jacob Groves. The first time Jacob Groves scored a tough layup over a current teammate that was bigger than he was, he scored on Tanner Groves in that same driveway. Now, the Groves brothers are making their mark as key contributors off the bench for this year’s deep EWU squad. 

“It’s pretty cool,” Tanner Groves, a redshirt sophomore, said. “It’s been pretty awesome to get that experience.”

The Groves spent hours playing and developing their games on their driveway hoop growing up in Spokane. Both brothers described those competitions as “heated.”

“One time I was playing against Jake on a seven-foot hoop,” Tanner Groves said. “I drove (and) tried to dunk the ball. Jake didn’t want me to dunk, so he shoved me with two hands. That really ticked me off … that’s how our competition levels increased.”

Mackenzie Ford
Tanner Groves shoots a free throw.

“We’d always go back and forth,” Jacob Groves, a true freshman, said. 

While the one-on-ones were fierce (as is usually the case with two competitive brothers), they were also crucial to both players’ development. 

Jacob Groves said he would try and force Tanner Groves, who was bigger than him, to hit perimeter shots. Thus, Tanner Groves developed a three-point shot to go with his low-post game. Tanner Groves would always muscle Jacob Groves up and force him to take contested shots around the rim. Thus, Jacob Groves developed an ability to finish tough shots around the basket. 

“At the end of the day, those (games) benefit both our games,” -Jacob Groves, Freshman

“At the end of the day, those (games) benefit both our games,” Jacob Groves said. “(Tanner) was able to work on his perimeter skills … and I was able to work on getting by bigger guys and scoring at the rim.”

Neither player remembers who might have dunked on whom first.

“It was definitely not me,” Jacob Groves said.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever dunked on him,” Tanner Groves said. “Maybe when he wasn’t looking.”

This EWU season has been filled with memorable highlights and moments, but Tanner Groves made possibly the play of the year  Dec. 13 with a windmill, one-handed putback slam off a Mike Meadows miss. Tanner Groves then performed the “raise the roof” celebration as he ran back down the court. 

The EWU bench and fans lost their collective minds, and the play started circulating on social media before becoming SportsCenter’s No. 1 play that night. To Tanner Groves, the play was all a blur. 

“Right when Mike shot it, I (thought) I’m going to jump regardless,” Tanner Groves said. “I jumped, and the ball could not have come off the rim more perfect.”

Mackenzie Ford
Tanner Groves goes up for a layup.

Jacob Groves was at halfcourt when the play happened. Was he expecting a play like that, as someone who had seen Tanner Groves play his whole life?

“Absolutely not,” Jacob Groves said. “I put my hands on my head going, ‘What just happened?’ I didn’t think he had it in him.” 

After that game, Tanner and Jacob Groves had friends over to their apartment. Jacob Groves said they all spent hours laughing at the social media comments made about the dunk, many of which both Tanner and Jacob Groves found quite amusing.

“There were so many funny (social) media comments,” Tanner Groves said. “They were referring to me as Lil Dicky. They were referring to me as (a) caveman … it was awesome.”

“We were laughing for three (or) four hours,” Jacob Groves said. “The funniest ones were about his reaction, raising the roof. The comments about that were hilarious.”

“It was unprompted,” Tanner Groves said when asked about raising the roof post-dunk.

Not to be outdone, Jacob Groves threw down a vicious baseline slam  Feb. 8 against Montana State off an assist from Meadows, the same player whose missed shot led to Tanner Groves’s putback. 

“Neither of our dunks would’ve been possible without Mike,” Jacob Groves said.

Basketball runs in the Groves family. Tanner and Jacob’s father, Randy, played two seasons at Spokane Falls Community College, while their mother, Tara, played at Whitworth and graduated as the program’s all-time leading scorer.

Mackenzie Ford
Jacob Groves prepares on defense after a dunk on Feb. 8 against Montana State.

Both parents were major inspirations and motivators to Tanner and Jacob Groves growing up.

“Along the lines of improving (and) working on my game, I’d say my dad is the biggest inspiration,” Tanner Groves said. “But when it comes to the support (and) the love for it, I’d say my mom is the biggest inspiration.”

When Tanner Groves graduated from Shadle Park High School in Spokane, he only had one Division I offer to play college hoops: EWU. Jacob Groves faced a similar situation as a preferred walk-on when his time to go to college came two years later. The decision to join Tanner Groves in Cheney was an easy one. 

“Once the day (EWU) decided to offer me a chance to play Division I college basketball with my brother, it was a simple decision,” Jacob Groves said. “I’m playing with the guy I grew up playing against my whole life.”

“I’m playing with the guy I grew up playing against my whole life.” -Jacob Groves, Freshman

Tanner Groves redshirted his first year at EWU before gradually entering the rotation and developing into a main contributor off the bench. There was a similar plan initially for Jacob Groves coming in, but with Jacob Davison dealing with hip issues all season and Jack Perry missing time in December with a sprained ankle, he instead got on the court five games into his career. 

“These coaches took a chance on me,” Jacob Groves said. “It felt good because I knew that I could play here.” 

Tanner and Jacob Groves, along with Casson Rouse, are now usually the first guys off the bench for EWU. Tanner Groves is averaging 6.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, while Jacob Groves adds 2.7 points and 1.5 rebounds per contest. Tanner Groves said EWU head coach Shantay Legans jokes that Jacob Groves can only play when his brother is on the court because their plus/minus rating together is so high.

“We always like to find each other (and) get each other open,” Tanner Groves said.