By Taylor Gull
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Holy Cross senior captain Dave Dudzinski, a forward from Elburn, Ill., certainly carries the title of team leader well, not only because he is the only senior currently on the team, but because he is a second-year captain. Dudzinski's basketball career extends much farther than his nearly four years as a Crusader however. While growing up, Dudzinski and the other boys in his town played basketball because it was just what everyone did. He also played baseball and football in high school, and confesses that baseball was his favorite sport, but would choose to pursue basketball.
Just like any other young, aspiring athlete, Dudzinski selected some professional athletes to model his own play after. When asked about his role models growing up, Dudzinski says, "I grew up in Illinois in the 1990s. Michael Jordan is my hero of course." As his game began to progress and as college loomed nearer, Dudzinski began watching players closer to his own age. He mentions Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina and Doug McDermott of Creighton. He used their playing styles to augment his own game.
Although he did not attend one of the schools he watched so intently, his love for Holy Cross is apparent. "I chose Holy Cross for the great academic opportunities that I would have here, which people in my town don't normally get," Dudzinski explained. And just like any other athlete on the Hill would say, he finds community and companionship with his team. "Equally important was the family atmosphere of the basketball team," he added. "Each day I spend here, I know I made the right decision." Dudzinski also recounts his favorite moment with his team, one that was shared over the summer while living and training on campus. "This past summer on the Fourth of July, we had individual workouts, lifting and hill conditioning all morning. When we finished, we all got in cars and drove down to my aunt's lake house. We swam, boated, grilled out and fished all afternoon."
Dudzinski comes from a supportive family of fellow athletes, who are his biggest supporters. His father played football for Dennis Green at Northwestern. His mother also was an athlete at Northwestern, a swimmer who earned first team All-Big Ten honors. His sister Katy plays volleyball for Wichita State, and his younger brother Robbie also has aspirations to participate in collegiate athletics. Although his family is halfway across the country in Illinois, they are still very connected to the team and follow their progress intently. They watch every game via the Patriot League Network.
Dudzinski was a member of the Patriot League All-Rookie team as a freshman, and later earned second team All-Patriot League honors as a junior. He also scored the 1,000th point of his collegiate career earlier this season, making him the 47th player in Holy Cross men's basketball history to do so. The success of a player does not just come from his achievements on the court however. It also comes from actions off the court, and more specifically, leadership and how one compliments and improves the play of his teammates.
Being the only senior, Dudzinski has an extremely unique opportunity to lead his team. During his four years on the team, Dudzinski feels that he has been able to find his voice, which he attributes to his success as a leader on the team. "That's the most important part about being a leader, the effectiveness of your communication," he said. Dudzinski has also found that being a vocal leader, as opposed to one who leads by example, is infinitely more beneficial to the success of his team. He attributes his past experiences with giving him the ability to both correct mistakes as well as anticipate them. He also believes that his ability to communicate and encourage his teammates stems from his own ability to push himself.
This year is not the first for Dudzinski as a captain. In the 2012-2013 season, he was a tri-captain with graduated senior Phil Beans and then sophomore Justin Burrell, a very similar dynamic to this year. Dudzinski attributes much of his success as a captain to working with Beans last year. He believes this system is the reason for the strong leadership each year. "Being from different years, I think it helps the other captain to feel the sense of urgency that comes with senior year," he said. With Burrell as a co-captain this year, Dudzinski appreciates that each captain has their own strengths and can focus their energy on different types of players. "With Justin and I, it helps to have a captain who is around the guards all the time and a captain around the bigs going through workouts," he explained.
Dudzinski has learned a number of lessons from his experiences at Holy Cross. To him, the most important lesson is that nothing is impossible. Throughout his four years, he has seen this lesson in all areas of campus life: on the court, in the weight room, and most importantly, in the classroom. Dudzinski said himself that the transition between high school and college was not an easy one. "It was a rough adjustment being so far from home," he said. "In high school I was able to get all As without doing much studying, so academically I had to learn what study methods worked for me. In basketball, I was inconsistent because I was still adjusting mentally to playing against such difficult competition every day in practice." But through his perseverance and his "nothing is impossible" attitude, Dudzinski was able to excel in all aspects of his life at Holy Cross.
Upon graduation, Dudzinski hopes to continue using his leadership skills and his love of the game by playing overseas. He says he is drawn by the opportunity to participate in something he loves in an entirely new place, while he still has the opportunity to do so. Although new opportunities lay within an arm's reach, Dudzinski knows he will miss Holy Cross, and specifically the people he has gotten to know on such a personal level. As for a transition between basketball and a career, Dudzinski joked about his desire to "make a furious run on Jeopardy to sure up my financial situation." And if that does not work out, he will always have his Holy Cross degree in economics and accounting to fall back on.
This story appears in the 2014 Patriot League Tournament program, which will be available for purchase at host sites for both the men and women's basketball tournaments.