Henry Caruso played his first four collegiate seasons at Princeton (where he was named 1st-team All-Ivy League in 2016-2017) before he decided to transfer to Santa Clara for his final season of eligibility. At Santa Clara in 2017-2018, Caruso averaged 12.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and shot 48% from the field in 31 starts. Now, he uses his high basketball IQ to help the current Broncos as a graduate assistant coach. I got a chance to speak with him before their second matchup with the Gonzaga Bulldogs this Thursday.
Arden Cravalho: The Broncos had a rough start to the season with a four-game losing streak and then the broken thumb injury to KJ Feagin in only the second game of the season. Also, Feagin announced he plans to transfer to a different school for his last year of eligibility. How has your team been able to overcome all of this?
Santa Clara graduate transfer KJ Feagin has already heard from 19 schools. The list includes Arizona, Cincinnati, Colorado, Iowa State, Nevada, Northwestern, USC, Oregon, Stanford & Utah.— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) January 16, 2019
Henry Caruso: These challenges and changes have provided everyone, especially our freshman, an opportunity to step up and contribute. Now that our freshman have half of a college basketball season under their belt, they have gained experience and are starting to see what it takes to be successful on a consistent basis, all while maintaining hungry and positive attitudes.
AC: Tahj Eaddy has really stepped up as the leader on this team with the absence of Feagin. How do you describe his game?
HC: Tahj can really fill it up on the offensive end. He is one of the best pure shooters I have ever been around. He also has a knack for attacking the paint and creating for others.
AC: Besides Eaddy, what other Bronco player should Gonzaga fans be concerned about on Thursday?
HC: Josip Vrankic, the only returning starter from last year’s team, is impactful on both ends of the floor. Our team this year is unique in the fact that we have many new players. As the season has progressed, each guy has become more comfortable in his role. We rely on each other and pride ourselves on playing hard and playing together. We are at best when everyone contributes.
AC: Santa Clara has already had a chance to play at Gonzaga this season which resulted in 91-48 loss for the Broncos. Now, you get a chance to play the Zags at the Leavey Center. What did you learn from your first time playing Gonzaga and what needs to be done differently in the second matchup?
HC: Gonzaga excels in transition and creating turnovers. On Thursday night, we will have to limit their fast break points. On the offensive end, we need to take care of the ball and try to get a great shot every time.
AC: You have had the privilege of learning under the legendary coach Herb Sendek as both a player and apart of his staff. What is the most important piece of information he has taught you?
HC: As a player and graduate assistant under Coach Sendek, I have always been impressed with his level of preparation and commitment. Coach is extremely dedicated to his players, and while he has achieved success at the Division 1 level for many years, he continues to bring a competitive edge and humble spirit.
AC: What’s the next step for your career after you graduate?
HC: I plan to play basketball as long as I can. Once I finish playing, I hope to remain in coaching and pursue a career in business.
Thanks to Henry Caruso for speaking with me and TSSF wishes his team the best of luck on Thursday. Now, here is a preview of Santa Clara and what they have done so far this season.
The Broncos started the season with a 3-6 record but then turned it around with a six-game winning streak, including wins over PAC-12 opponents like USC and Washington State. Besides Eaddy, the Broncos rely heavily on freshman guard Trey Wertz (12.2 PPG, 5.0 APG) and sophomore forward Josip Vrankic (13.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG) to pick up the slack on offense. Herb Sendek, who has been to the NCAA Tournament eight times in his coaching career, keeps the morale high on this team and has got this program moving in the right direction. Herb has won the MAC Coach of the Year in 1995 with Miami (OH), the ACC Coach of the Year in 2004 with North Carolina State, and the PAC-10 Coach of the Year in 2010 with Arizona State (He coached some guy with a beard named James Harden over there in Tempe).
Wins - @ San Jose State, Jackson State, Northern Arizona, Sonoma State, USC, Idaho, @ Washington State, San Diego, Pepperdine, @ Pacific
Losses - Prairie View A&M, UC Irvine, Washington, Minnesota, @ California, Idaho State, @ #7 Gonzaga, @ BYU, @ Saint Mary’s
KenPom Ranking - #186
#4 Gonzaga (18-2, 5-0) @ Santa Clara (11-9, 3-3) 11:00 PM ET on Thursday, January 24th
- 70.8 Points Per Game
- 34.3 Rebounds Per Game
- 14.1 Assists Per Game
- 4.5 Steals Per Game (Ranks 3rd in WCC)
- 3.7 Blocks Per Game
- 70.3 Points Allowed Per Game
- 45.9 Field Goal Percentage
Player to Watch For:
Tahj Eaddy, Sophomore - 16.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.0 SPG
Tahj is ranked 10th in scoring in the WCC, 9th in assists, and 9th in three-point field goal percentage (.395%).
Score Prediction: 87-64, Bulldogs over Broncos
Gonzaga looks to extend their nine-game winning streak to ten straight with a win over Santa Clara and then have to get ready for another big WCC matchup at BYU next Thursday (ESPN2). It’s always a bit tougher in Provo.
*Arden Cravalho is a senior at Gonzaga University... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho