COLERAIN TWP. – The Colerain High School boys’ basketball team hasn’t had a winning season since 2010. That year, the Cardinals went 19-5 and finished third in the Greater Miami Conference.
Since then, not much has gone Colerain’s way on the hardwood.
First-year coach Michael Cruz is hoping to turn that around. Cruz comes to Cincinnati by way of Cleveland, his hometown. He was the head coach at Lorain County Community College, a junior college in the Cleveland area.
When the Colerain job opened up, it immediately appeared on Cruz’s radar.
“I’ve always known about Colerain because of the football program and playing in the GMC,” Cruz said. “Being a college coach we’ve recruited the GMC in the past. When the job opened up I knew that would be a job I would leave college to go coach.”
Cruz said the opportunity to coach in one of the best conferences in the state was alluring.
“The program (Colerain) hasn’t been great, but this is an opportunity to build something from scratch,” said Cruz.
Cruz’s debut for the Cardinals didn’t go as planned. Hamilton beat Colerain 70-45 on Dec. 9.
Colerain didn’t start poorly, but they hit a wall in the third quarter and the second half slipped away pretty quickly.
“We’re disappointed in the outcome, but we’ve got a young team,” Cruz said. “We have five seniors, three of whom have never played high school basketball until this game.”
Actually, Colerain only returned one player who had played meaningful minutes prior to this season. That senior Blake Scott had a team-high 17 points in the opener.
Cruz said the challenge is getting his young team to understand the effort in practice needs to be greater.
“Games are predetermined from how you practice,” said Cruz. “It’s very clear if you come to a practice what we value – guys that work really hard. Our mentality is a tough-minded team that plays with high energy and competition in everything we do.”
Cruz and his staff have a vision for where they want the program to go. To get there, the Cardinals begin on defense.
“We have to be a half-court, man-to-man defensive team,” Cruz said. “At this point, 80 percent of practice is focused on the defensive side of the ball. In order to compete in this league, you have to be able to defend in the half court and win games even when your offense isn’t there.”
Next up for the Cardinals is Lakota West Dec. 12 and then the home opener against Sycamore Dec. 16.