He's 6'10" with long arms and fantastic athleticism. He is a monster on the boards and can score scads of points on offensive rebounds, but at the same time he can hit the face-up jumper outside the free throw line and nail the mid-range turnaround jumper. Defensively he is an instinctive shot blocker with great timing and blessed with leaping ability. He averaged 13 points, 12 boards and seven blocks as a junior at Fairley High School, while also taking at least one charge every game.
There is a reason most people who have seen him consider RouSean Cromwell a Top 100 national player in this 2005 recruiting class. The problem it seems is that not enough people have seen him and even fewer have been able to talk to him. When have you ever heard of a player with Top 100 ability and stature go into July without a single word from his mouth printed on this network about his recruitment?
I spent most of the winter and all of the spring trying to find and reach the Memphis big man; many college coaches failed to get ahold of him during the spring calling period. He is seemingly elusive, though unintentionally so. Regardless of the reason, the abject lack of information about him on this network and other recruiting services leaves him a man of unmatched mystery in this rising senior class. Today, you get a load of answers to all those lingering questions.
The first of which is why have we not seen reports of Cromwell's play during the busy spring and early summer AAU period. The answer is a foot injury that he tried to play through but had to eventually sit and rest. In June he could walk but not run, and he could not jump. His goal has been to get it healed in time for this week's start to the July evaluation period, where he figures to play in Indianapolis at the Nike All-American Camp. He thinks his AAU team, the Memphis Bulldogs, will be in Las Vegas at one of the three tournaments later in the month, and then they are supposed to jet across the country to Orlando for the AAU Nationals.
"I have been trying to stay off my foot as much as possible," he reports. "I want to be able to play. It's a lot of fun at the All-American camps and these tournaments, to tell the truth. There are so many skilled players."
Despite what he says, Cromwell cannot hardly help himself. When he played with his AAU team in the Tennessee state tournament, he was supposed to stay on the bench and not play a single minute with his foot injury. But whenever he saw his team struggle even a little bit, a pain shot through his heart, knowing how he could help if only he could get on the court. He pulled off his warmups and put himself in one of the tighter games. In two and a half minutes of play, he grabbed three boards, snared three steals and scored four points. The Bulldogs won. In the semifinals, he hopped up and down the court - almost literally on one leg - for much of three quarters. Incredibly he scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a nine-point win. After a perfect 5-0 record, his team dropped the final game to the other premier AAU team in the state, YOMCA. That second place finish was enough to put Cromwell and the Bulldogs into the AAU Nationals, though.
"I'm willing to sacrifice as much as I can for my teammates," he emotes. "My heart outweighed the pain."
That level of determination, selflessness and leadership is precisely what he displays on his high school team. Schools like Stanford may covet Cromwell for his size and athleticism, but it is impossible to overlook his infectious charisma and on-court intangibles.
"I'm one of the older players on our team," says the Fairley HS rising senior. "I try to be a leader as much as I can. I want to help my teammates be able to stand up in the face of adversity. Against all odds, we have to push through and fight in every game."
His vocal leadership is seen in huddles and directing teammates during play, but his actions and abilities lead the team as well. He is the first to admit that his strengths are his defense and his rebounding, but he is pushing himself to a rapidly improving offensive game as well.
"I move more swiftly than your average center and I can shoot at 15 feet," Cromwell self-describes. "I have fun banging with guys in the low post, banging with guys 250 to 260 pounds. On defense I help weakside and get clean blocks. I keep myself between my man and the ball, cuting off the baseline but keeping one eye on my man. I'm very effective moving my feet."
"I feel I'm a pretty athletic guy - my athleticism has taken me a long way - but I can run a lot harder and jump a lot higher," the introspective post prospect continues. "Peope tell me I still can't understand how far I've come. I kinda like that. I still think I have so much more I can do on the basketball court. I can run a lot harder and jump a lot higher. I want to improve every part of my game. I truly feel like I've played one or two games at 100%. It's that hunger that keeps me working hard."
His hard work since the conclusion of his high school season has included his shot and his ballhandling. Cromwell claims to have stretched his shooting range from 13 feet to 17 feet, with consistency. His ability to handle the ball means that he now is comfortable starting to push the break off a defensive rebound, and he has the lightness on his feet to run with his teammates in those transition breaks. Physically, he has worked on his lean body, which bounced between 196 and 201 pounds in the winter but now registers at 212 pounds.
If the athlete and leader are not enough to engage you, then meet RouSean Cromwell the student. He carries a 4.425 GPA at Fairley High School on a four-point scale, taking honors classes. He is in the running for valedictorian at his school and has won the award each of the last three years as the athlete with the highest GPA on campus.
"My academics are just as important as my athletics." he maintains. "I am a student first and an athlete second."
The only blemish on his profile might be his ACT score, where he recorded a 19 early last fall.
"I took it just to see how it would go," Cromwell explains of the ACT. "I'm going to retake it in the fall. I'm shooting for the upper 20s."
"Stanford says I have to get past admissions. My goal is to get a high enough ACT and get admitted," he says of that impending fall retake. "Even if I don't end up going to Stanford, it is an important goal for me to prove that I can get admitted. I want to have that option."
The Cardinal coaches want him to have that option as well. With his character and his academic achievement at his high school, they are pushing forward in their recruitment of him. Cromwell says he can play the power forward or center positions for Stanford. "Whichever is most comfortable," he adds.
"I really do like the school," the Memphis man says of his Pac-10 suitor. "I love the school and love the area. I played in California two years ago at a Torrey Pines tournament in San Diego. Man, it was beautiful. If the rest of California is as nice, I could definitely go there for four years."
The Card are not alone in their fervent pursuit of Cromwell. He holds offers from Tennessee, Illinois, Florida State, Miami (FL), UAB, Arkansas-Little Rock and Connecticut. If he is healthy this month and able to show himself to the host of college coaches who are still trying to learn about him, that list could explode.
"Even though I've talked about some specific colleges, I don't want to leave others out," he declares. "I'm still going through this process with a fine toothed comb."
The 6'10" big man does not like to name a favorites list yet, but he does hint at his official trips this fall.
"I'm positive I'll visit Stanford and Florida State," he allows. "Tennessee will probably be in there, too."
One final question that Cardinal fans may ask is how Cromwell viewed the spring coaching transition. It could be that he equated Stanford's basketball success with Mike Montgomery - perceived uncertainty now intertwined with the future. To the contrary, his enthusiasm for the program and coaching staff has remained piqued.
"Stanford told me right away when the new coach was hired that he wants me to come right in and help their program. That made my heart rate jump. It made me excited," Cromwell recalls. "They have a very friendly atmosphere at Stanford and I look forward to continuing our relationship."
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