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Why did Zion Cruz – Jersey kid and top-50 recruit – choose DePaul?

The recruitment of Jersey City’s Zion Cruz was always a mysterious one. As the rest of the ’22 Class committed around him, Cruz was the outlier, remaining untethered. As of December, he was one of only 3 in the top 30 who hadn’t chosen a school yet. It would still be another two months, in late February, when Cruz would finally make a decision.

Cruz was connected to Syracuse at one point in his recruitment, although who knows how much interest SU really had. Of all the places Zion could have went, he chose Big East bottom-feeder DePaul, a program looking up at Villanova and UConn in the league, and also an unproven second-year head coach in Tony Stubblefield. Wait, what?

It seemed as though either Zion was never anchored to any reported favorites, and floated from program to program like a butterfly in the park. Or he was quiet enough to where the recruiting outlets never really new who was leading the race.

Auburn was the early favorite. Then UNC got involved and Cruz called it a “dream school.” In September he re-opened his recruitment, and that’s when Memphis zoomed to the top. Cruz then transferred to the Donda Academy in California for his senior season. Georgia then became a favorite, and ultimately the G-League was floated as a real possibility.

In classic Cruz fashion, none of that materialized. He chose DePaul, a school that went 6-14 in the Big East last year, and finished below .500 for the season at 15-16. To say Cruz is a rarity for the Demons is an understatement. Cruz is the first top-50 recruit to choose DePaul in 15 years, since 2007.

In a story at ZagsBlog, he said he was “really, really excited,” and that DePaul is simply “the right place.” He cited the fact DePaul was in on him since freshman year, although that seems curious since they were never a favorite at any point during his recruitment. The story cites his ability to play in front of family and friends when he comes back east in road games against St. John’s and Seton Hall. But he ignored all the northeast schools throughout the recruitment as well.

It’s also strange that playing in front of family and friends was apparently an advantage for DePaul, even though his other two finalists were… wait for it, Texas Tech and West Virginia. Tech was one of the best teams in the Big 12, but West Virginia was the worst. At 4-14, the Mountaineers were somehow even more awful than DePaul. There are annual road games to Kansas and Iowa. None to the northeast.

Hopefully Cruz found a place that fits for him, and one can never know what decisions swirl inside the mind of an 18-year-old student pulled at by many different people. But if you had bottom-feeder DePaul on your Zion Cruz bingo card, you’re finally the winner.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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