Union Hill grad Cruz leaving her mark as Stevens Tech’s all-time leading scorer

When Aracely Cruz was playing basketball at Union Hill High School, she always had to worry that she was living in the shadows of her older brother, Wilmer Torres, who just happens to be the all-time leading scorer at Union Hill.

“I was always Wilmer’s little sister, off in the shadows,” Cruz said. “I just tried to be my own player. Wilmer was always a big influence on me. We’ve always had this competitive thing going on. I would shoot with him and do workouts with him, play some pick-up games. I did that throughout grammar school and high school.” But during that time, she was always just Wilmer’s little sister.

“I knew that if I played with my brother, I could become a better player,” Cruz said.

When her high school playing days were done, Cruz wasn’t inundated with offers to attend college, although she had a fine career with the Hillers, earning Third Team All-Area her senior year.

But Cruz knew that an education was important to her, so she elected to go to Stevens Institute of Technology in nearby Hoboken.

“I didn’t have a lot of people looking at me, but basketball wasn’t the biggest part of my life,” Cruz said. “School always came first. I had one of my biology teachers at Union Hill who told me about Stevens and told me that I could make it here. I decided to come to Stevens, a great school close to home.”

Little did Cruz know that when she decided to attend Stevens and play basketball for the Ducks, she would eventually become the school’s all-time leading scorer.

After scoring 20 points in a win over Mount St. Vincent Monday night – in a game where Cruz hit her head on the floor, sat out for a while, then came back with a vengeance – Cruz now has 1,449 career points (some 400 more than the No. 2 all-time leading scorer). Cruz also leads Stevens all-time in steals (308) and assists (333).

“I wanted to come here and make a difference,” Cruz said. “I never thought that this would happen. I just wanted to play and enjoy myself. I think having the supporting cast here, a complete team, has helped me grow as a player. We didn’t have a true post player in high school, a true power forward.”

Cruz said that she’s been able to succeed as a college basketball player because of her determination.

“I’m just very intense and determined,” Cruz said. “It’s just my nature to play that way. It’s how I grew up. It’s in my blood.”

When Cruz is playing, she is constantly seen throwing her body all over the court, driving from one end of the floor to the other with authority. She’s a bundle of energy, a whirling dervish.

Through it all, Cruz has never once paid attention to her statistics.

“I’m not a big stat person,” Cruz said. “If I do look, I care about the assist-to-turnover ratio. But all I want to do is win. My mother always asks me how many points I scored.”

Cruz said that her mother, Maria, has also been a driving force.

“My mother is a huge influence on me,” Cruz said. “Always has been. She’s my backbone, my Gatorade. She’s the one who keeps me going.”

Cruz, who will graduate in May with a degree in chemical engineering and hopes to pursue a career in either pharmaceuticals or consumer products, said that the most important achievement she will reach is the lesson that she will give to other kids in her neighborhood.

“I grew up in the projects on 39th Street in Union City,” Cruz said. “I’m proof that you can get out of the projects and find something positive in your life. I want to be an inspiration to them. It’s huge for my family, but even more important for the community. No one has to settle for something they don’t want. They can move in a positive direction with their lives.”

It’s obvious that Cruz is moving forward in a positive direction, leaving her mark in the school’s record book. “It’s gone by so quick,” Cruz said. “It was short, but sweet. I just hope we can keep winning (the Ducks are 7-6 this season) and I can go out on a positive note.”

She’s already comprised the positive influence – as the school’s all-time leading scorer.

But can she compare with her brother?

“No way,” Cruz said. “That boy had game and still has game. He’s better than me. I don’t even try.”…

The Hudson County Umpires Association is holding its annual Cadet Class for prospective baseball and softball umpires. The classes will be held at Dickinson High School every Tuesday night from 7-9 p.m. running from Feb. 3 through April 20. The classes will include quizzes, tests, lectures, video programs and instruction as to becoming an umpire. Graduates of the class will be certified to umpire high school games upon passing the New Jersey state exam.

For more information, contact Gene Klumpp, Sr. at (201) 858-0024…


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