Dennis Kramer, former La Costa Canyon and USD basketball standout, dies at 31

Dennis Kramer lunges for a rebound during a December 2013 game against San Diego State at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
Dennis Kramer lunges for a rebound during a December 2013 game against San Diego State at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
(Sean M. Haffey)

Dennis Kramer, who played basketball at La Costa Canyon High School and the University of San Diego, died Sunday, Aug. 27, following a car accident in Gottingen, Germany. He was 31.

Citing a police report, a German sports website said Kramer lost control of his car and drove off the road. His car rolled several times. Kramer was driving alone.

Kramer is survived by his wife and their two sons, Jackson, 8, and Chase, 6.

Kramer was born in Cologne, Germany, and played seven professional seasons in the country after his USD career. The 6-foot-10 Kramer followed a basketball path set by his father, Arvid.

Arvid Kramer played collegiately at Augustana College and was selected in the third round of the 1979 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. He played eight games for the Denver Nuggets in the 1979-80 season, then went on to a professional career in Europe. Arvid lives in Fallbrook, where he’s a substitute teacher. He found out about Dennis’ death by a phone call from his daughter, Lisa. Lisa is a former honorable mention All-American volleyball player at USD who lives in Germany.

“You can ask anybody at USD, they loved him,” said Arvid. “He was a team player. One time I told him, ‘You need to get more rebounds.’ He said, ‘Dad, it’s all about the win. I don’t care about my stats and will do everything to make our team win.’ And that’s how he lived his life.”

Dennis Kramer was 12 when the family moved to Encinitas from Germany. He played three varsity seasons at La Costa Canyon. The Mavericks’ roster was stacked: Three of Kramer’s teammates played in college, and Kenny Stills played nine seasons as a wide receiver in the NFL.

Kramer’s three LCC basketball teams had a combined record of 70-18.

“He definitely was upbeat and always in a good mood,” said La Costa Canyon coach David Cassaw. “He just cared so deeply about his teammates. He was never too big for his britches. I feel like the most apt thing I heard was that somebody said you feel cheated when a great person like that gets taken from us.”

USD's Dennis Kramer dunks during a 2013 game against Grand Canyon.
(Earnie Grafton/UT San Diego/Zuma Press)

Kramer earned second team all-league honors twice at La Costa Canyon. He started for three years at USD, averaging 11.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as a senior.

Former Toreros coach Billy Grier spoke with a few of Kramer’s coaches and teammates.

“We were all shaken up by the news of his passing,” Grier said via text. “He was a special person and teammate that will be missed by all that knew him. My heart goes out to his family.”

Matt Shrigley played with Kramer at La Costa Canyon and against him when Shrigley played at San Diego State.

Early in Shrigley’s college career, he stood next to Kramer at the free-throw line.

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘I’m going to push this guy right under the basket.’ He threw his leg into my side and boxed me out so easily,” Shrigley said. “I remember thinking, ‘He is a grown up man now.’ That was my welcome-to-college-basketball moment.”

Added Shrigley, “You could always tell with his frame, his experience and family history he was going to grow into something special. Dennis was a great man who came from a great family.”