Dave Dudzinski keeps upping his game and he doesn’t think he’s hit the ceiling yet.
The 6-foot-9, 227-pound junior from Elburn is a big cog in the men’s basketball machine at Holy Cross, part of the NCAA Division I Patriot League. He’s shown improvement each year with the Crusaders and this season he’s leading the team in scoring (15.1 points a game) and rebounding (7.2 rebounds a game) while serving as one of three captains.
“My game has really changed since high school,“ Dudzinski said. “I credit that to the Holy Cross coaches.”
Not that his game was bad in high school. Dudzinski broke the Kaneland school record with 287 career blocked shots and ranks fourth on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,269 career points. He was second team all-state as a senior and was the Kane County Chronicle Player of the Year.
His play as a prep attracted plenty of attention from college coaches.
“I had a lot of opportunities all around the nation, all different levels,” Dudzinski said. “It came down to [Holy Cross] and Loyola. … I really clicked with the guys when I came out here on my visit.”
It didn’t take long for Dudzinski to notice the difference between playing in the Western Sun Conference and Division I.
“In high school, I was probably one of the most athletic guys and certainly the tallest,“ he said. “You come out here and you’ve got to find new moves.”
As a freshman at Holy Cross, he played in 27 games, all off the bench, but was a key contributor for the Crusaders, averaging 4.6 points and 2.8 rebounds a game. He was named to the Patriot League All-Rookie team.
Last season, he started all 29 games, averaging 9.4 points and six rebounds a game. He ranked fourth in the league in several categories – rebounding, field-goal percentage (48.7), free-throw percentage (83.1), and blocked shots. He scored in double figures 11 times, including a 23-point performance in a victory against Lehigh, which represented the league in the NCAA Tournament, upsetting Duke in the first round.
Dudzinski figures Lehigh will be tough again this season. Holy Cross (7-6) opens conference play at Lehigh a week from Saturday.
“We did have a nice three-game winning streak,“ Dudzinski said. “We’re going to be ready for conference play.”
The Crusaders likely will go as far as Dudzinski can carry them. He’s now the prime focus in the offense.
“I’ve been getting a lot of touches in the post,” he said. “That’s something I really wanted to do this year.”
Dudzinski says sophomore point guard Justin Burrell has been getting him the ball in good spots.
“I’ve hit a couple 3s,” Dudzinski said. “I’m shooting the ball real well. I spent a lot of time this summer working on it, so it’s good to see it pay off.”
Dudzinski’s actually hit on 7 of 18 shots from beyond the arc (38.9 percent). Overall, he’s hitting on 49.3 percent of his shots from the floor and 84.5 percent of his free throws.
During the Crusaders’ earlier three-game winning streak,, he scored a career-high 31 points at San Francisco. He followed that up with 22 points in a loss at Harvard. Together, those two performances earned him accolades as the Patriot League Anaconda Player of the Week, the first time he received the honor.
Dudzinski says he wants to continue to improve his strength, which he says was considered a liability entering college, as well as his perimeter shooting and being a “little more comfortable off the drive.”
He’s got one more year at Holy Cross and he hopes it will not mark the end of his basketball career.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it,” he said of his post-college plans. “I definitely want to play a couple years overseas in Europe.”
After that, he might seek a career in accounting, which is his collegiate major.
For now, though, he’s enjoying living and playing on the East Coast.
“It’s a little bit different“ from the Chicago area, Dudzinski said. “It’s not flat. … I really like it. There’s just a lot of big cities close together, so there’s a lot of opportunities.”
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes the On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To submit information on area athletes competing in college, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.