Fort Wayne native Andrew Kroft building momentum as Richmond’s standout guard

When Richmond basketball took the court last Saturday for the annual Marion Classic, it was just another game for the majority of the Red Devil basketball community. But for a couple of those related to the Richmond program, including junior Andrew Kroft, there was more to the story when they squared off with Fort Wayne North Side.

But it didn’t fluster Kroft. It didn’t sneak into his psyche. He just played prepared, as he has shown to do almost every night this season. Kroft spent his freshman year playing for North Side before a family move took him to Richmond last season. He finished the game with a game second best 27 points, including a fury of triples and and-one opportunities to really put the foot to the pedal in the third quarter, thwarting any hopes of a North Side comeback.

“My confidence is a lot better this year than it was last year. I know my game more, I know how good I can truly be,” Kroft said. “Last year, I was young, I tried to go at everything 100 miles per hour and this year I am able to slow it down.”

He is now averaging a team high 18.1 points per game for the the 5-6 Red Devils, averaging just a hair under playing every second of the season at 31.4 minutes per game. Kroft also leads the Red Devils in steals per game at 2.3 and is second in rebounds at five per game behind another Fort Wayne native, Cleevas Craig.

His junior season has been a unique one of transitions. A year ago, he was trying to find himself in a new place with new teammates but with older brother Lucas, now at Ball State, being the guy to lead the way during his own senior season. Andrew was right there, in the passenger seat just next to Lucas on both ends of the court. Once Lucas graduated, it was on Andrew to take a lead at Richmond.

It took him a while to find his perfect role. Was he a facilitator? Was he a creator? Did he have to do it all to get transfers up to speed on the way Richmond was being built under head coach Shabaz Khaliq’s tutelage?

“I didn’t know how my shots were going to come,” Kroft said. “Now, I let the offense come to me. I still get a good number of shots per game, I am still the leading shot taker but we all look for that one more pass for out other teammates.”

Andrew Kroft 1
Richmond junior Andrew Kroft knocks downs a three pointer against North Side on January 4 as part of the Marion Classic.

“I talked to Andrew that his role has never changed,” Khaliq said. “When we started the season, he’s our guy. We need him to be aggressive, be assertive, put points on the board and be efficient. This year, he has been very efficient. He’s looking for his shot, he’s making his shots, he’s attacking the basket, he’s doing more.”

His ability to up his game was cultivated over the summer months. Kroft only spent select times or select tournaments playing on the traditional summer circuit. Instead, he focused on going through a variety of trainings to get stronger and improve his skill without playing in the dozens and dozens of summer games that he would under a traditional grueling summer schedule.

Not just any kid could take on that way of thinking and training. The allure of the AAU circuit and grandeur of big tournaments is a major draw to kids and their parents alike. But Kroft doesn’t fit by the normal constraints. He has seen other guys take different paths, brother Lucas included. Andrew, as anyone who knows him will tell you, does things his own way inside and outside of the gym.

When he was playing on teams, up to 60 percent of the offense went through Kroft. His play, both in front of crowds and privately, earned him his first Division I offer before his junior season, to Youngstown State.

“Getting that offer was amazing. Its hard to be a 6-2 shooting guard but when you play your heart out, it is amazing to get that,” Kroft said.

“I think it is something that all kids chase and when you get it, it feels good,” Khaliq said of Kroft’s first Division I offer. “You aspire for more once you get that first one. Drew is kind of seeing that it doesn’t matter how many offers you get, it is the right fit. Who has a plan for you? His maturity has shown that. He’s not chasing the next offer, he is chasing improvement. If they come, they come but in the process of that, relationships are important.”

Richmond goes back to back again this weekend, hosting New Castle on Friday and then visiting McCutcheon on Saturday.

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