By John Mather
Brandon Krupa’s basketball teams have gone from awe inspiring to often awful.
The 6-foot-1 rookie shooting guard is working through the transition from a high school team that won the Southern Ontario AAAA championship to a varsity team that just won its first game in almost two years.
The bleachers have been nearly empty this year at Ryerson’s home games, a far cry from the packed stands that Krupa and his high school basketball team grew accustumed to. Fans in his home town of St. Catharine’s were so rowdy that they once stormed the court, inciting a brawl between fans, parents and players.
“All the kids were hammered and came running on the court,” Krupa says. “It was nuts.”
The young guard took some time to sit down at Big Slice to discuss his personal success with the Rams and the challenges the young team faces. But slices are not the only things that have gotten bigger since Krupa moved to Toronto. As a starting rookie, he has had to adjust immediately to a taller and tougher game.
“It’s a privilege; no one expects to play this much as a rookie,” he said. Krupa’s journey to success began in his senior year of high school. While playing in a tournament, he was spotted by Ryerson head coach Patrick Williams.
After watching Krupa’s first game, Williams approached the young star. Over the next few weeks, Williams sold Krupa on the idea of a Ryerson career.
“Basically, I wanted the opportunity to play basketball, and they were guaranteeing I could come in and play right away,” says Krupa, who did not apply to Ryerson until early summer.
“I didn’t know much about Ryerson, except that it was not a big sports school,” he says. With a guarantee of residence in Pitman Hall, Krupa agreed to come to Ryerson, where he now studies Occupational Public Health.
“All I had to do was fill out my application and they took care of the rest,” he says.
Krupa says he did have some hesitation about coming to play for a losing team.”It’s tough because you always want to be on a team that is doing well, but then you develop (as a player) better if you get more playing time–I am happy here right now.”
Krupa predicts he will continue being happy at Ryerson and hopes to end the season strong.”We have good players. Even though we’re not doing well, we still have good players, we should be doing a lot better.”
Krupa has a few individual things he would like to improve to help the team. “I want to improve my handle. Like, I don’t want to be just a shooter. If you can go to the hoop it opens up your jump shot a lot more,” he says.
Krupa, along with fellow rookie guard Sanel Sehic and veteran point guard Duane Benjamin, form a small, quick, backcourt of excellent shooters for the young Rams team. His team got their first regular season win last Saturday with a 64-60 victory over Royal Military College.
Krupa had 12 points in the game, all from beyond the three point line. The night before he led the team in scoring in a loss to Queen’s. Krupa predicts this success will grow in the coming years, and should generate interest among students at Ryerson.
Attendance might also be boosted by a change in the music played during breaks in games, he adds. “I don’t want to hear Celine Dion, or Gwen Stefani,” he says, laughing. “Better music means more people.”
Including Krupa, the team has six freshmen on their roster, and he believes they will become keys to its success. Four-year starter Vlad Matevski is the only graduating player this year.
“I think next year it won’t be like a void & the rookies will have more experience, and we won’t be relying on one person,” Krupa says. Williams has watched Krupa dazzle since high school, where he was a team leader, and hopes Krupa will bring those assets to Ryerson’s squad.
“Over all the voices, you always hear him encouraging the guys. Doesn’t matter if it was at the start of the year or now, it’s always his voice that stands out among everyone. And it’s positive reinforcement. It’s ‘common boys,’ that’s all you will hear constantly. He’s always an example that we bring to the other guys.”
Williams is working with Krupa to control his dribble, but has big plans for him nonetheless. “As a rookie, he’s definitely going to be a star,” Williams says.
“Brandon Krupa will be a star in this league,” agrees Dave Dubois, program director of Ryerson Sports and Recreation. Krupa is excited to play and hopes his team can start to win consistently next season. “We’re going places for sure,” he says.