The 6-6, 220-pound Central Catholic (Mass.) junior earned plenty of admirers two summers ago when become just the third sophomore in the history of Five-Star to earn MVP honors.
However, an ankle injury kept Cruz out of action for nearly the entire spring and summer last year.
Cruz was utilized primarily in the paint during his junior campaign at Central Catholic when he averaged 11.4 points and 11 rebounds per game but his coach, Dick Licare, recently made him the team's point guard in an effort to get the ball in his hands more often.
``He's a complete player," said Mike Trovato, Cruz' coach with the Mass. Rivals traveling team. "Most kids his size don't have the ability to pass the ball like he does. Now he's playing on the perimeter the whole time, because at 6-6, he's not going to be playing down low in college."
Cruz' scoring has suffered, but the team has rebounded nicely from a slow start in which they lost four of their first 12 games. Cruz put up 7 points and 16 boards in a recent victory against Bishop Hendricken, which is considered the top team in Rhode Island. He also had 27 points, 22 boards and 5 blocks in a win last month against rival Andover.
Since Licare made the switch, Central Catholic is 8-1.
``It's fun playing the point, but it's tiring," Cruz said. "It's a lot different because when I'm in the box, three people are always around me. I have more fun playing on the perimeter because I'd rather get my teammates involved."
Cruz is versatile. He can pass, rebound and score in the low post and also step out and knock down the mid-range jumper. However, the two areas that he'll try to improve before he gets to college are his athleticism and his outside shot.
Cruz is still uncertain who he'll play for in the spring and summer. BABC is an option, but he's leaning towards remaining loyal with Trovato and the Mass. Rivals.
``It's a great program," Cruz said of the Rivals. "My coach has done a lot for me and he makes sure that I'm doing well in school."
That's a big change from the days when Cruz resided in Manhattan, N.Y., and didn't take academics seriously.
``I didn't care," Cruz admitted. "I got straight F's, but now I'm doing much better and have a 2.8 GPA."
Cruz' recruiting hasn't taken off – partially because he hasn't had a lot of exposure in the past year or so. Georgia and Rhode Island have seen him play this season and schools like Syracuse, Boston College, Providence, Florida State and Georgetown have expressed interest.