Sunday, March 2, 2003

Ruberg pivotal part of Capital evolution


LaSalle grad has team talking tourney

By Ryan Ernst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A year ago today, Tony Ruberg sat with his teammates in disbelief.

Capital University's men's basketball team was ranked eighth in the nation in Division III. Three of its five losses came at the hands of the eventual national champion, Otterbein, by a combined eight points. Yet the selection committee overlooked the Crusaders for the 48-team national tournament.

"We felt like we deserved to be there," Ruberg, a La Salle graduate, said. "But we had a chance to win the (Ohio Athletic Conference) Tournament and get the automatic bid. Instead, we left it up to the selection committee."

It's a mistake Ruberg, a senior and a team captain the last two seasons, vowed not to repeat this year. He had seen the program come too far in his four seasons to go out without reaching the national tournament.

When he was a freshman, the Crusaders played in Alumni Gym, a converted airplane hanger, and went 7-18. The following season, while the school was building the $18.5 million Capital Center, the team improved to 16-10 despite playing every game on the road.

The program was evolving, and Ruberg was a factor. He led the team in minutes, averaged 10.8 points a game, and took on a leadership role.

Then came last season, a 23-win epiphany, followed by a punch in the gut.

Although disappointed, Ruberg, who averaged 11.8 points a game a year ago, said the committee's oversight only fueled the Crusaders' fire.

"We used it as motivation. We've played like we've got something to prove," he said. "This year we knew we had to make it so they can't take it away from us."

This season, Capital has posted a strong record. The Crusaders finished the regular season 20-5, one game off last year's pace, and ranked 16th nationally. They did however, win one more conference game (15-3) to win a share of the OAC title for the first time in 19 years.

But winning the regular-season championship does not guarantee teams a national tournament bid. And missing the tournament is a feeling Capital knows all too well.

"(Not making the tournament) was tough," coach Damon Goodwin said. "But I told them we had to accept it and move on. I told them to put it in the back of their minds because there'd be a time and a place to pull it back out. That's what this weekend (was)."

The OAC Tournament was this weekend, and Capital reached Saturday night's final. A win would give Ruberg the tournament appearance "they can't take away." A loss would mean another Selection Sunday waiting game.

Ruberg said the last four years, during which he has played in every game, starting 93 out of 94, have been more than he expected when he first walked into the old airplane hanger.

"It's a real honor to be part of this program," he said. "It's been great to see that turnaround after the first two years. It's made the last two years a lot more enjoyable; we appreciate it more now."

Others

• Mount Vernon Nazarene guard Andy Dunn, a Lakota West product, was named to the All-National Christian College Athletic Association East Region basketball team. Dunn averaged 11.6 points a game and led the team in assists with 120.

• Xavier rifle team members Hannah Kerr and Thrine Kane were named All-Great American Rifle Conference. Xavier coach Alan Joseph earned a share of the conference's coach of the year honors.

• Paul McMillan, a product of Aiken and Miami-Middletown, was named last week's Horizon League player of the week. The 6-foot-6 Loyola-Chicago junior guard averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds a game in a pair of Ramblers wins.

• University of Cincinnati sophomore center Debbie Merrill averaged 22.5 points and eight rebounds in wins over DePaul and Marquette en route to earning Conference USA player of the week honors.

• Highlands product Tara Boothe, a freshman forward at Xavier, was named Atlantic 10 rookie of the week for the eighth straight time. She recorded 10 points, five rebounds and two assists in the Musketeers' 65-45 win over St. Bonaventure.

• The College of Mount St. Joseph on Wednesday announced it will add men's and women's track and field to its athletics program this fall. Mike Miles, the Mount's men's and women's cross country coach, will coach the new programs.

• Wilmington sophomore forward Siobhan Zerilla, a Mercy graduate, pulled down a school-record and Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament record-tying 23 rebounds as Wilmington defeated Mount Union 78-58 Friday.

E-mail rernst@enquirer.com




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