Hayfield’s Kruger commits to Upper IowaPublished 7:07pm Wednesday, April 23, 2014
HAYFIELD — Hayfield senior Cole Kruger is taking a shot at his dream.
After hearing from many Division III men’s basketball coaches over the past year, Kruger was wiling to wait until he heard from a Division II school before making his choice on where he’d attend college next season.
Kruger finally made his choice when he signed his national letter-of-intent to play college basketball at Division II Upper Iowa University under a partial athletic and academic scholarship in Hayfield Wednesday.
Kruger, who was also considering St. Mary’s University in Winona, was impressed with Upper Iowa’s campus, coaches and their team and the school has a good Ag Business program, which is where Kruger plans on focusing his education.
“It’s always been my dream to play Division II,” Kruger said. “When [Upper Iowa] said they wanted me to come, that was good. I wasn’t getting the looks I was hoping for and when I finally got one and had it finalized it was kind of unexpected. I’m happy.”
Upper Iowa is in Fayette, Iowa and Kruger is very familiar with that town as his great grandpa and grandparents used to live there.
“It’s a small town, but I’m used to that living in Hayfield,” Kruger said.
Kruger said he talked to just about all of the MIAC, WIAC and NAIA schools, but he’s had his heart set on playing Division II basketball ever since he watched Hayfield grad David Johnson play at Winona State University. Johnson, who is now an assistant coach with the Hayfield boys basketball team, played for the Warriors from 2006-2010.
Johnson is Hayfield’s all-time leading scorer and he was a part of two national championship teams at WSU.
“He’s a guy I looked up to and that’s kind of where the DII dream came from,” Kruger said. “He told me he had the perfect situation. He just shot threes his first two years and then he was the go to guy his last two years. I don’t think I’m going to have either of those luxuries.”
Kruger said most of the DIII coaches he talked to said they could see him playing his freshman year due to his size. But he’ll probably have to get a little quicker and a shoot a little better to crack Upper Iowa’s rotation this coming year.
Kruger gave the Vikings plenty of versatility and he was a four-year starter for Hayfield. He is first in school history with 533 career assists and 262 career steals, he is second in career points with 1,746 and he is fifth in rebounding with 621 career rebounds.
Kruger averaged 16.8 points, 6.9 assists, 6.7 rebounds and 2.6 steals this past season.
Kruger made his mark on the basketball scene in his freshman year when he banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to knock off Kasson-Mantorville in the subsection semifinals. He also took part in plenty of big plays that helped the Vikings rack up three straight 20 win seasons and the team played in the Class AA state tournament in 2013.
For Hayfield head coach Chris Pack, Kruger will be a very difficult player to replace next season.
“He did it all. He was our point guard, leading rebounder, leading scorer and leading assist guy,” Pack said. “You don’t see too many kids that do that. He was a calming presence on the floor. He’ll certainly be missed and we wish him the best. He led the program back to prominence.”
Upper Iowa finished last season 16-14 overall.