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SFU depth leads Ruggery to choose redshirt

LORETTO — Former Bishop Guilfoyle standout Luke Ruggery already has made a great impression on Saint Francis coach Rob Krimmel in many areas, but Ruggery won’t be showcasing his skills on the court this season for the Red Flash.

Saint Francis, which has a good shot to reach the NCAA Tournament, is loaded with upperclassmen guards. So, Krimmel sat down with Ruggery and gave the true freshman the choice to redshirt or not.

“It’s actually the first time I’ve done it with a freshman scholarship kid, given him an option to do that,” Krimmel said.

Redshirting is common in college football, but not so much in basketball because of limited scholarship numbers.

Ruggery led BG to the PIAA Class 2A championship game last season and is a rare Blair County boys basketball player to receive a Division I scholarship. It’s believed there have only been two other male Division I scholarship players who graduated in this county since the late 1990s — Altoona’s Jeff Churchill (Saint Francis) and Hollidaysburg’s John Boyer (Buffalo).

The decision to redshirt, Krimmel said, has little to do with Ruggery’s talents and is more about the Flash having so much quality experience at the guard spots.

“I said if you want to (redshirt), it’s yours,” Krimmel told Ruggery. “If you want to come in here and compete and work for playing time, go for it. But with so many experienced guards, I’d hate to at least not give you that option.

“He had a great preseason for us. As I told him, there’s no guarantee that you’re not going to play, but we have some guys in front of you right now that are just a little bit more experienced.”

That experience has helped the Red Flash become a much stronger team in the Northeast Conference in recent years.

“As a program now, with the experience, as we bring these young kids in, it’s the first time in a long time that the freshmen haven’t had to step in right away,” Krimmel said. “We’re now at a point where guys are sticking around, and the older guys are better than the younger guys.”

Ruggery is the career scoring leader at BG and the first male player from the school in more than 40 years to earn a Division I basketball scholarship. He averaged at least 20 points per game each of his final two seasons with the Marauders.

Krimmel raved about Ruggery, a 5-foot-11, 160-pound sharpshooting guard.

“His value that he’s added to this program from the day he stepped on campus, his work ethic and his energy are contagious,” Krimmel said. “He ran our fastest mile time. He’s an unbelievable practice kid.”

The coach also noted Ruggery has proven to be even better than expected since he arrived on campus over the summer. The freshman is the first one in the gym and the last one out on most days.

“You don’t know, whether it’s him or any other kid, to make that transition from high school to college is a challenge,” Krimmel said. “Just because he’s from down the road, it’s no different for him than it would be for some kid five hours away.

“He made the transition because of how hard he works and the discipline he has. This summer he had a great summer. We do our shooting numbers, I think he finished in the top three in our shooting numbers. So he had a lot of good numbers. The only thing he didn’t have was that experience.”

Krimmel pointed out Ruggery won the team’s defensive award after its preseason scrimmage against a Division I opponent.

“He’s a very smart and willing defender,” Krimmel said. “He can really shoot it. He’s tough, he works hard. All of those things I think will translate for him a year from now when we have all of these guys that are gone.”

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