He bats and plays golf right-handed, shoots a basketball, writes and clutches a fork left-handed. Oh, and get this: Throws a baseball righty, a football lefty. No, seriously.
To be sure, Cameron John Krowiak is not your garden-variety high school athlete — for reasons extending beyond the aforementioned eccentricities.
This spring he aims to be part of a state final four participant for a third time in his senior year at Union-Endicott. In the fall he established a Section 4 single-season football receiving record, then transitioned into a winter season in which he topped boys sectional basketball scoring charts. But his sport of choice? The one he will play at the Division I level? That would be baseball.
Different cat, U-E’s top Tiger — and Elite 10 Boys Player of the Year, as selected by the sports staffs of the Press & Sun-Bulletin, Elmira Star-Gazette and The Ithaca Journal.
C.J. Krowiak’s game is as unconventional as it is effective, equal parts unorthodox and unstoppable, a signature blend of fearlessness, full-bore aggressiveness and brake-tapping control. What he does while in possession of the basketball is neither diagrammed nor disseminated in Coaching 101.
But, convention be damned. Have a look at his 2013-14 statistics: 25.8 points per game on 53-percent accuracy from the field … 5.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 3 steals per outing. He will leave U-E as the program’s all-time leader in points (1,483) and steals (155).
“Not really by-the-book,” Krowiak willingly concedes of his style. “It’s not perfect form finishing. Definitely awkward. My left leg is my jumping leg, so no matter what I go off my left leg. … But definitely not just a normal game.”
Crossover high on the perimeter into a stop-and-start burst through a clogged lane … Go airborne in defiance of “Don’t Leave Your Feet!” teachings … Hang for a bit, then another bit … Draw contact, double-pump and flip something over the shoulder for the next in a string of And-One’s.
And forget trying to correct the toes-to-2 p.m. alignment at the free throw line. He’s aware, has tried to tidy up the look– but 83 percent is 83 percent.
He is a risk-taker, invites trouble by dribbling into it, but then avoids it by craftily pulling up for a mid-ranger or by improvising with a leap into a legs-tucked, head-ducked, off-handed scoop full of English off the board. Ah, but pull that off a few times, attract the high double-team or the extra attention upon penetration, and watch that no-look feed bounced to the corner become three points for one of his three backcourt mates on the floor.
“How do you stop him?” said Elmira coach Ryan Johnson. “He’s got the best body control of anybody I’ve seen in my years coaching high school ball. He’s so smart defensively, and just a genius offensively.”
“The key, I think, is you’ve get to try to get him to make outside shots, but he’s just hard to stop,” said Binghamton coach David Springer. “No. 1, he’s just so fast and strong. You try to take away the left hand, you can’t.”
Said Maine-Endwell’s Adam Gallagher, moments after guarding Krowiak for an entire game: “Everybody knows he’s the best player around, the hardest player to stop. A lot of their stuff is for him. … I just tried to stay in front of him and do my job. But, what’d he still get, 20? He’s an awesome player.”
U-E’s all-time leading varsity basketball scorer, Krowiak was first-team all-state in football and third-team in baseball. Given 30- and 25-point showings in state basketball playoffs, particularly the 25 against heavyweight Mount Vernon, he should learn soon of high all-state placement in that sport.
But he has long known that, come time to put away two sports and choose one for college, it would be baseball, his first love and the sport he considers himself best suited to play. He will attend Binghamton University, where he hopes to compete in the fall for an opportunity to show his stuff as a middle infielder.
As for the crossed-wires throwing, baseball righty and football lefty: It seems C.J.’s Dad determined his boy to be a natural left-hander, and so purchased a new lefty baseball mitt. Thing was, the youngster had no patience for breaking in the stiff leather, and opted instead to use the ol’ man’s floppy, old right-handed model. Glove’s on the left hand, so … Voila! Young Cameron — which girlfriend and one grandma still prefer — becomes a righty on the diamond.
Given all he has accomplished in basketball, it as been suggested he try to walk on to coach Tommy Dempsey’s BU team. It entered Krowiak’s mind, but upon further considering the inherent overlap that notion was scrapped.
He has spent a couple seasons on U-E’s golf team as well, as a freshman and then, after sustaining fractures in his back during sophomore football season, it was back to golf as a junior. Something about one’s baseball future coming into play after going airborne for a football and then being smacked and falling awkwardly to the turf.
But caution went to the breeze last fall, with so many buddies out for football and what appeared opportunity for a special season, Krowiak rejoined with 1,124 receiving yards in 12 games, five weekends bringing three-digit yardage totals. In helmet and pads, he tended to make success look smooth and effortless, be it as a receiver or return man.
Off the court he is an engaging, interesting and witty young man, at ease whether conversation swings from sports to music to social media– oh yeah, @Hoof_Harteed spends some time thumbs-to-keypad. But on the court or field, he is almost stoic. Guess is, he is not the guy to belly up across from at the card table.
“I’m not really an emotional guy,” he said. “There were times when big plays happened I’d get pretty amped up, but for the most part I just keep to myself — don’t let anyone bother me and don’t bother anyone else.”
U-E’s Joe Alger summed up Krowiak as follows: “I’ve been very blessed to have had the opportunity to coach this extraordinary young man since the seventh grade. As good as this young man was on the court, he is even a better person off the court.”