George Kaftan is still regarded by many as one of the finest players to wear the purple, and his arrival at Holy Cross started a golden age of Crusader basketball.
Kaftan did not begin playing basketball until he was a junior in high school. But after just two years of playing the sport at Xavier High School in New York City, he was the city’s top scorer.
He arrived in Worcester along with new coach Alvin “Doggie” Julian for the 1945-46 season, and made an immediate impact.
After a fine freshman year, Kaftan began rewriting the Crusader scoring records as a sophomore, as he led the team to an amazing 27-3 record. He set the school record for points in a season, and became the school’s all-time leading scorer in just his second season. But he saved his best for the post-season, as he helped lead Holy Cross to the NCAA Championship. After he scored 18 points in the championship game against Oklahoma, he was selected as the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Along with sophomore Bob Cousy, Kaftan helped bring the Crusaders back to the NCAAs as a junior, where they lost in the Final Four to eventual champion Kentucky. In his six NCAA tournament games (over two years) he totalled 104 points.
Kaftan played just 14 games as a senior, graduating mid-season. He played his final game for Holy Cross on January 22, 1949, and signed with the Boston Celtics the next day. He went on to spend six seasons in the NBA.
Freshman Year (1945-46): Scored 237 points (15.8 ppg) in a 12-3 season for the Crusaders.
Sophomore Year (1946-47): Scored a team-best 310 points (11.0 ppg) in leading the Crusaders to the NCAA Championship... Became the first player in school history to score 30 points in a game when he did so against CCNY in the NCAA semifinal game... Was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament... Earned first team All-America honors.
Junior Year (1947-48): Scored 468 points and became the first 1,000 career point scorer in school history... Scored 15 points in HC’s 63-45 win over Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, and then 15 more in the Crusaders’ loss to Kentucky in the Final Four... Earned first team All-America honors for the second straight year.
Senior Year (1948-49): Split the season between the Crusaders (14 games) and the Boston Celtics (21 games)... Was the Celtics leading scorer (14.5 ppg) in a part-time role.... Was drafted by the Celtics at season’s end.