It’s rare for an athlete to excel in two sports. Yet J.C. Cruse, Detroit senior, has won Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association awards in both basketball and football.
In late March, Cruse was named to the MIAA-First Team in basketball for the second year in a row. Cruse also played for the Albion College football team this fall, garnering MIAA-Second Team honors.
Playing two sports isn’t easy—especially while balancing the academic rigors of Albion College Cruse said.
“Playing both sports with school is the hardest part,” Cruse said. “My coaches say I should take a break. I probably should.”
Because the football and basketball seasons overlap, Cruse was forced to miss most of the pre-season practices in basketball. However, he showed very little rust early this season, scoring a career-high 33 points versus a ranked Carthage College team.
Cruse is known as one of the most versatile basketball players in the MIAA. This season he averaged 13.4 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game, and had 47 assists—leading Albion in all three statistics.
“The thing with J.C. is he scores a lot of points, but he leads in assists too,” head basketball coach Jody May said. “When other teams focus on him he sees the whole floor.”
Cruse had a breakout season on the football field in 2010, after being limited by injuries previous years. Playing wide receiver, Cruse was the Briton’s big-play threat. He averaged nearly 16 yards per reception, and scored five touchdowns—including an 80-yard score versus Hope College.
“This was his best year,” head football coach Craig Rundle said. “He started to play at the level he’s capable of, and really developed as a competitor.”
The opportunity to compete in both sports played a major role his decision to come to Albion.
“One of the main factors (of my decision) was playing both sports,” Cruse said. “Other schools only offered one or the other.”
Both May and Rundle were more than happy to oblige Cruse’s dual-sport desire.
“Basketball initiated the recruiting of J.C.,” Rundle said. “He was interested in playing both sports at the school he attended so football became involved as well.”
Although Cruse is a senior, he still has a semester of NCAA eligibility left to play football. He hopes to be an even bigger contributor next season, on a team he says has the potential to win the MIAA title. Coach Rundle echoed that sentiment.
“He must continue to improve,” Rundle said. “He’s just scratched the surface. He could be a dominant receiver, not just in the MIAA but all of Division 3 football.”
Although his days representing Albion on the hardwood are over, Cruse’s accomplishments won’t soon be forgotten.
“It’s very difficult to earn First-Team All-League, and it’s extremely difficult to do twice,” May said. “He rates up there with the best.”