February 27, 2008

Waiting For His Chance

Feb. 27, 2008

By Charles Bare
Special to GoHolyCross.com

On Dec. 7, 2006, Kyle Cruze was nine games into his junior season with the Holy Cross men's basketball team. Known as a strong outside shooter coming out of prep school, he had scored just 27 points in 38 games played, and had never seen more than 15 minutes of action in any one contest. Many observers of the program wondered if Cruze would ever become a key contributor for the Crusaders on the court.

A few days later, starting guard Pat Doherty suffered an injury in practice which would keep him out of action for a month. So when Holy Cross played its next game at Providence, head coach Ralph Willard decided to give Cruze a chance in the starting lineup. He scored five points in 17 minutes against the Friars, and a few games later hit for 15 points in a 68-48 victory at La Salle. The Crusaders had found their new shooting guard.

"During my first two seasons, practice was very important for me, even though I did not play much in games," said Cruze. "It took me time to adjust to the college game, but I was able to learn a lot from guys like Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas. Then during my junior year, I was fortunate to get a chance to play when we had some injuries, and I was able to step up."

Cruze has held onto his spot in the starting lineup ever since the contest at Providence, starting 51 straight games for Holy Cross since that night. Even though he did not put up big numbers for the Crusaders last season, averaging 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds per game, Cruze was solid on the defensive end of the court, and always did whatever was necessary to help the team win. He ended up being a key player on a team which won the Patriot League title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

Now as a senior captain, he has stepped into an even bigger role for Holy Cross. In 12 games played against Patriot League opponents this year, Cruze ranks second on the team in both scoring (8.9 points per game) and rebounding (5.0 boards per game), while leading the team with 1.8 steals per contest. He has scored in double figures nine times this season, including a career-high 16 points in the victory at Bucknell on Feb. 16. That win over the Bison, Holy Cross' first in Lewisburg since 2002, is one of the games this season that stands out for Cruze.

"We have had some good solid wins as a team this year," said Cruze. "The game at Bucknell was a big win for us, and so was the victory at St. Joseph's. The Ohio game is another one that stands out, where it was a great experience for me to hit the game-winning shot and help the team to victory."

In addition to what he has done on the court, another one of Cruze's memorable experiences from the last four years came in the summer in between his junior and senior seasons. In late June and early July of 2006, he spent two weeks in the Philippines with a team from Athletes in Action. In addition to playing games against some of the top collegiate and professional teams in the Philippines, Cruze's squad also conducted a number of clinics for underprivileged children, and took part in other community service activities.

"Going to the Philippines was a life changing experience for me," said Cruze. "Just to be with the Filipino people and see how they live day-to-day is extremely humbling. It makes you realize how great this country is, and how lucky you are to have the simplest things that you take for granted every day.

"Most of the people there thought that just because we were American and played basketball that we were Michael Jordan. That was obviously not the case, but we were viewed that way by the Filipino people. So we were able to use that platform to share with them the love of Jesus Christ, our faith and personal testimony, and that was really special."