The Colonels' basketball army is losing one of its biggest guns.
Tom Kresge, the former standout at Pleasant Valley, officially wrapped up his collegiate career at Wilkes University this past February. While it may not have ended the way he wanted it to, he should be proud to be looked at as one of the greatest players to ever come through the program.
It all started on Nov. 27, 2006. As he would for the next 98 games of his career, Kresge suited up as one of Wilkes' starting forwards against Immaculata University. It didn't take long for him to fit in, as he scored his first two points as a Colonel on a lay-up one minute and 50 seconds into the game.
"It was my first game and I can still remember it," admitted Kresge, who finished the game with 20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and steal. "It sticks out because that was the game that gave me my confidence. I scored like 20 points and I realized that I could hang with the competition."
The rest is now history.
Kresge went on to lead the Colonels in scoring and rebounding three out of his four seasons. He now ranks fifth all-time in both categories with 1,542 points (15.7 ppg) and 740 rebounds (7.6 rpg). With those numbers, he became the only boys' player in history to score 1,500+ points and grab 700+ rebounds.
"It's an honor to be considered one of the best players ever to go to Wilkes," said Kresge. "It's crazy when you think about how many years the program has been running (64 years) and the number of great players that have come through it. To be the first with 1,500 points and 700 rebounds is something that I am very proud of."
The list of accomplishments only gets longer for Kresge. This year, he was named an All-Freedom Conference first teamer for the first time ever thanks to his 17.6 ppg and 8.8 rpg averages. He was also named to the D3hoops.com Mid-Atlantic second team and the Eastern College Athletic Conference's DIII-South third team.
Prior to this season, Kresge had been named to the conference's second team twice and was the Rookie of the Year back in 2007.
Although Wilkes failed to win a conference championship with Kresge, the team finished over .500 every year and qualified for the conference playoffs twice. As Kresge's numbers improved every year, so too did the Colonels' win total. The only year in which they did not win more games was this past season (one fewer win than '09).
Kresge attributed the growth to his ability to become a leader.
"As the years went on I took on more responsibility as a leader," Kresge said. "I learned from Matt Gould (former teammate at PV and Wilkes) when I first got there. I listened and learned and when the time was right I gave my knowledge back to others.
"I became more vocal to the underclassmen as I got older. It's tough going from high school basketball to college basketball. I did it. Having good team chemistry is probably the most important thing to a basketball team and I tried my best to make sure we always had that."
Kresge will graduate with a bachelor's degree in business this spring. He intends to take over his father's business, William H. Kresge's Funeral Home in Brodheadsville, in the future. He also hopes to get into coaching at Pleasant Valley.
Basketball is not completely over for Kresge just yet. He was asked to play on a team that USA Athletes International will send to the Slam Tournament in Barbados in late May. Athletes International is an organization that provides an overseas playing opportunity for collegiate athletes. AI hopes to help the game grow by putting on clinics that the players offer to the foreign youths.
Regardless of what Kresge chooses to do in the future, there is no doubting his past.
"I'd like to be remembered as someone who gave it their best every day, every practice, every game," said Kresge. "Even though all of our goals were not met, I feel like I tried my hardest to accomplish them. I feel like I did my best to make sure I improved every year.
"I don't look back with any regrets. I would have loved to give everyone at Wilkes a championship, but we didn't get it done. Either way, it has been an honor playing at Wilkes."