On a Monday, two days before a game, and a couple hours before a practice, Ben Cripps is working on his shot. Together with teammates Michael Chan and William Barber, Cripps does dribbling drills and shooting off the dribble.
On Wednesday, when the St. Thomas men’s basketball took on the University of New Brunswick Seawolves, Cripps finished with 12 points in the win. Last year that would have been one of his best games all season. Now, it’s the norm.
The 6’6″ athlete is only in his second season on the Tommies, but is now a regular starter. Last year Cripps averaged just 5.3 points a game. Now he’s scoring over double that, with 12 points a game.
“He’s just turned into a man out there. He’s dominating now,” said Tommies coach Dwight Dickinson. “As more touches come on the inside, I think that more success will come through him.”
Cripps first started playing basketball in the fifth grade, but it took him until his first year on the Leo Hayes High School varsity team in Fredericton before he really started to work hard at it. He found the junior varsity program at Leo Hayes wasn’t strong, but once he got on the varsity team things started to improve. His new coach, John Hickey, pushed him to improve.
“I never really put a lot of work in until Hickey pushed me. He engraved the work ethic in me,” said Cripps. “When we got to varsity he was doing everything for us. He’d come in and unlock the gym at 6 a.m. if you wanted. He’d stay late at night. He’d open the weight room.”
Cripps took advantage of that. Every morning he’d go into the gym to shoot. Then at night sometimes he would lift weights.
Last year, Cripps played his first season for the Tommies. It took a bit for him to adjust to the different game.
“You’re going from playing against 16 and 17 year olds to playing against grown men. I started playing against Dave Dolan in practice, and he’s throwing me around. He was huge, so I definitely knew I had to put some size on.”
The Tommies lost in the semi-finals of ACAA playoffs last season, but that didn’t mean Cripps was ready to take a break from basketball. Over the summer, Cripps would go to the gym with teammate Bradley Hovey almost every day.
“We were in the gym at least five days a week. We would lift, then shoot at night, and scrimmage when we could.”
Cripps has improved across the board this season. Besides more than doubling his point average, he also averages a block a game, and has exactly doubled his rebounding with 6.6 a game.
“Blocking shots. Rebounding. Scoring for us. The guy has a lot of stuff going. It really really helps us out as a team,” said Dickinson.
Cripps is trying to add a three point shot to his game. He has hit a few this season, but is looking to get more comfortable behind the arc. With all this improvement and hard work, he is setting his sights on playing professional basketball after graduation.
“I’d like to go overseas, or play in the NBL,” said Cripps. “I think that would be a fantastic opportunity. Even it’s just for a couple years, it would be nice to meet new people and make some money.”
Until then, Cripps is just going to focus on the season ahead. The Tommies are 7-5, and have a big game on Friday against the Holland College Hurricanes. Ben Cripps is confident the team can win the ACAA championship this year.
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