by Ben Collins / @globesoundtrack
You probably already had some sort of inclination this was true, but here’s confirmation: New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was once a good point guard. A very good point guard.
You don’t break people’s ankles out of the slot in the Super Bowl like that without world-class footwork. You need some sort of training for those kinds of moves, and he’s very clearly exhausted the salsa dancing route. You saw him do it all nine times after touchdowns in his rookie season last year. But here’s how badly you underestimated how good he was: Cruz almost tried out the NCAA hoops path. And he spent his high school career traveling around and throwing lobs with a mercy rule-inducing group of future pros on the Tim Thomas Playaz.
While on that stellar AAU team, Cruz distributed the ball to a current Grizzly, Bobcat, Knick and L.A. Defender. Too bad he didn’t stick with that hoops thing. Instead, he went and broke receiving records at UMass. Then he had to settle for setting the Giants’ single-season receiving record (1,536 yards) in his rookie year. And then he got that Super Bowl ring. And a book deal. OK, so he’s done pretty well for himself anyway.
SLAM: So I hear you were on a bad-ass AAU team back in the day.
Victor Cruz: That is true. I played point guard for a team called the Tim Thomas Playaz.
SLAM: Who’d you play with?
VC: A few guys on my team, JR Smith, (high school star and NC State recruit) Brandon Costner, Wayne Ellington, Gerald Henderson. We were a pretty good team. We didn’t lose very many games. Those were some fun times.
SLAM: Do you and JR still hang out?
VC: We do keep in touch. I’ll see him, get dinner and whatnot.
SLAM: Gerald, too?
VC: Gerald Henderson and I keep in touch every now and then. I’ll text him when I see he goes off in a game. Wayne Ellington and I, we keep in touch all the time. It extends out from the AAU world into the professional world. It’s a close-knit family. Not just in the AAU world, but in the professional world.
SLAM: How did it affect you as a football player? Did it affect your attitude at all?
VC: Yeah, any time someone feels like I can’t do something, or if a coach comes up to me and says they don’t think I can do this or they don’t think I can do that, I’ve always tried to work harder and break through that barrier. I mean, I think you’ll see me outside a little bit more this year (and not in the slot). So that’s another barrier I’m gonna break through this year. Hopefully it can be as prosperous as last year.
SLAM: You think you guys can repeat this year?
VC: I like what we did. The Giants have never really made these big, gigantic off-season moves. They kind of draft very well and they keep the teams in place and they cultivate guys. They move them to become great players. I like what we do. I like that we kept the core of the team together. We lost Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs, but that’s part of the business. I feel like we got some good replacements for them. We drafted very well. Those young guys are definitely gonna have to play well. But I love the Giants’ moves. They kept our core here.