Andrew Anastasio – Sports Editor –
Ever since he was a small child, Owls sophomore forward Jose Cruz enjoyed playing the game of basketball. Now several years later, Cruz finds himself competing at the collegiate level.
“When I was three years old, my dad put a basketball into my hands for the first time,” Cruz said. “He played baseball and basketball in Puerto Rico, and that was something we did for fun back then. It’s something I really love doing, and I’ve spent a long time doing it.”
Growing up in his hometown of Shrewsbury, Mass., Cruz attended Shrewsbury High School. There, he was honored as a league All-Star twice and helped lead his team to a league title in his senior season.
“Jose is a great kid,” head coach Mike Donnelly said. “He’s an extremely hard worker and the nicest guy in the world. He’s a team guy who wants to win, and we can’t ask any more than what he’s already given us. He’s a great addition to our team.”
Before coming to Southern in the fall of 2011, Cruz attended prep school at Worcester Academy. In his brief one-year stint with the Hilltoppers, Cruz won the Lawson Riley Award. He said he chose to come to Southern because of the way the program recruited him.
“Southern was the school that recruited me the hardest out of prep school,” Cruz said. “I met the Southern coaching staff at one of my prep school tournaments, and they seemed very interested in me. I just wanted to go somewhere I was wanted, and I felt Southern Connecticut was definitely the school that wanted me the most.”
In his freshman season with the Owls, Cruz finished averaging 2.4 points per game along with 2.1 rebounds. In 344 total minutes played, he shot 64% from the field. He also amassed 14 blocks, which ranked him second on the team.
“We’re trying to find the right way to play Jose,” Donnelly said. “We have to find the right spot for him on the floor. Right now we’re trying to find a way we can utilize all of Jose’s abilities offensively and defensively.”
Fellow teammate Tylon Smith said Cruz is a great guy to play along side with.
“He does a little bit of everything,” Smith said. “He’s a great team player who’s very unselfish. He’s hardworking and is someone who will put in the extra work where it’s needed. He’s an overall example of a great teammate.”
Through the first 13 games of the 2012 season, Cruz has accumulated 12 points and now finds himself tied for fourth on the team withthree blocks.
“I don’t have any statistical goals necessarily,” Cruz said. “I’m more focused on the team aspect, and bringing my energy every single day; whether it be practice, weight room, or games. I feel that if I do that, it’ll help this team take off to where we need to be.”
Cruz said his overall experience with the team has been everything Coach Donnelly preached.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” Cruz said. “Going back to my freshman season and now, nothing has been a surprise to me. I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far, and I’m looking forward to what this team can do in the future.”