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Crumpacker: Profiling San Francisco's Kruize Pinkins

Dec. 11, 2014

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By John Crumpacker, WCC Columnist | @CrumpackerOnWCC  |  Crumpacker Archives

In the Dept. of Curious Circumstances (located on the third floor, next to Odd Notions), a man named Crews is responsible for a player named Kruize traveling across the country, east to west, to the University of San Francisco, where he leads the Dons' basketball team in scoring.

It happened as seamlessly as shifting into cruise control for the cross-country trip.

If it weren't for USF assistant coach Brent Crews, forward Kruize Pinkins would not be in the position he is, currently No. 7 in scoring in the West Coast Conference at 15.3 points per game, behind Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer (15.9) and just ahead of BYU's Chase Fischer (15.2).

"He stays like 20 minutes from me,'' Pinkins said, referring to his and Crews' hometowns on the Florida Panhandle. "My grandmother knows his mother.''

In recruiting, connections are everything, and this one was solid.

As it happened, in 2011-12 Crews was an assistant coach at Chipola junior college in Florida (not to be confused with the eatery chain Chipotle), where Pinkins was a freshman on the team. When USF coach Rex Walters hired Crews in 2012, the new assistant coach knew who his first recruit would be:

That's right, Crews went after Kruize.

"I loved the guys I was around on my recruiting visit,'' Pinkins said. "I felt like this was the right place for me. It was my first time in California. I was pretty excited to come out here.''

The Dons were pretty excited to have the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Pinkins, too. As a junior in 2013-14 he started 19 of 33 games and averaged 12.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Thus far this season he leads the Dons in scoring (15.3) and rebounding (6.3).

"He's phenomenal,'' Walters said. "He's a guy all the guys enjoy, all the guys like, all the guys respect. He gets along with all the guys; the campus, too. He's got a real calm demeanor. Off the court, he has a calm, engaging demeanor about him. He's a really good young man.''

Pinkins has taken to San Francisco, even though the weather was nothing like his native Florida. He said he enjoys spending time Downtown and at Fisherman's Wharf and going to the beach "every now and then.''

"It's very diverse, a lot of different people,'' Pinkins said. "The people are different from where I'm from. You have all different kinds of people.''

Pinkins lives in a campus dorm with two teammates. He said it takes him "about a minute'' to walk to campus, where he's taking classes toward a degree in Advertising that he is on track to receive in the spring of 2015.

And on that USF degree it will name "Kruize Pinkins'' as the recipient. That's his given name, which requires a little explanation.

"My mom told me she wanted it to be unique,'' he said. "She came up with a different way to spell `Cruise.' I never got the full story. She didn't want me to have a name like anyone else. It's pretty cool.''

Pinkins had a moment earlier in the season when he was not on Kruize control. During Thanksgiving week, the Dons played in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida and it was an opportunity for Pinkins' family to see him play Division I basketball for the first time.

The Dons opened up by beating Hawaii 88-73 as Pinkins had 19 points and 12 rebounds. But he ended up fouling out of the next two tournament games, to host Florida Gulf Coast and Evansville, while playing a total of 33 minutes.

Not coincidentally, USF lost both games.

"It was a lot of pressure on myself,'' Pinkins said. "I had family there - the first time seeing me play. It was a big deal to me. It was really exciting for my family to see me play at a Div. I college.''

Pinkins rebounded in USF's next game, at home against Montana, as he equaled his career-high with 26 points in an easy victory. The Dons are 5-3 heading into Thursday night's game against Eastern Washington.

"We need him to learn how to play hard,'' Walters said. "He's still learning how to play hard enough where he doesn't get into foul trouble. When he's not fully engaged defensively, he gets into foul trouble.''

Walters acknowledged that playing in front of his family probably put too much pressure on Pinkins to play well and the opposite happened.

"We went to Florida and caught a bump in the road,'' Pinkins said. "It really helped our team. When you play tough teams like that, you have to play together and you have to play smart. We're learning from that. I was in foul trouble a lot. A lot of it was not playing hard at first. We weren't playing like USF plays - together and smart.''

For the remainder of his senior season Pinkins said he will strive to improve his ball handling and passing as well as work on shooting better.

"I think I'm playing pretty well,'' he said. "My teammates are making me better in practice every day. They're pushing me. I think I've played better after those two bumps in the road (in Florida).''

As the Dons prepare for the start of conference play on Dec. 27, Pinkins said, "I think we're going to be really good. We've got a lot of talent this year. We have a full 15 guys who can help us. Once they figure out how the coach wants us to play, we'll be really good.''

And then there's this: "It's a pretty tough conference.''

John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.