Cruz makes his move with Minutemen
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 1/15/1999

Many players - or at least the ones who don't play very often - entertain the thought of transferring to another school.

Rafael Cruz is no different.

The UMass sophomore, originally recruited with the hope that he could step in as a shooting guard, quickly sank on the depth chart behind the likes of Monty Mack and Jonathan DePina.

Mack was a better scorer. DePina could handle the ball and, potentially, run an offense. Both were much better defensively.

That left Cruz in the role of situational player or, more to the point, a guard who could be plugged into late-game situations as a deep shooting threat.

Except that he disappeared from coach Bruiser Flint's screen early on. No wonder Cruz considered going somewhere else.

But all it takes is a game like the one Wednesday night to change a young man's mind. Cruz drained all four 3-pointers he attempted on the way to a career-high 16 points in the 69-55 win over Duquesne.

Flint now likes the idea of Cruz as a zone breaker - a major need on this team, considering the way that opponents like to pack their defenses low against the Minutemen. And Cruz likes the fact that his coach finally may be thinking along these lines. ``The coaches showed a lot of confidence in me (against Duquesne),'' he said. ``I always stay patient, though you always get frustrated when you don't play. But I accepted my role, and you have to be patient.

``I think that sometimes we just need a spark. Someone can give that to this team off the bench, and I'd be glad to be that guy.''

Flint, of course, has a word of caution for his eager guard.

``For him to play, he has to defend and take care of the ball,'' said Flint. ``It's not just about shooting. The night you don't do those other things is the night that you don't get in. But I know he can shoot. That's not the problem.''

Even Cruz laughs at mention of his defensive prowess, or lack of the same.

``We've been working on it,'' he said. ``I'll never be a Mike Babul, or anything like that, but I'll be all right.''

In Cruz' mind, that preferably would mean remaining in Amherst.

``It always crosses your mind,'' he said of past considerations he has given to transferring. ``But this is where I want to be.''


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