At this preseason matchup, the Corban Warriors are hosting New Hope Christian College. With a series of wins behind them, the Warriors are looking good, leading by 14 points at the half. This didn’t stop the Deacons from making an attempt to pull back into the game. Just when New Hope seemed ready to catch up, their opportunity disappears with an emphatic dunk by Warriors co-captain Erik Cronrath. His dominant move puts Corban’s opponents back on their heels, and the Warriors go on to win 85 to 56.
Cronrath, a senior, is the Warriors’ main weapon and threat. Last year he worked his way to the top and was rewarded with recognition as an all-conference player.
This year, he is averaging 16 points per game and dares anyone to defend him with his .620 field goal percentage. To add to his offensive weapons, he has pulled out of other teams’ clutches 44 offensive rebounds thus far. Another intimidating factor is his uncanny ability to combine speed, agility, and leaping ability with his 6-foot-8-inch frame. Combined speed and size make him so versatile that he has accumulated 27 blocks, 20 steals and 68 rebounds in the first half of the season.
No player is safe when driving to the basket. Teammates and coaches alike know that when an opponent thinks he has a clear shot, Cronrath is lurking on the weak side defense, ready to smack it down.
“He’s the most dominate player when he’s on the court … in my opinion the best big man in the conference,” says teammate and friend Marcus Butler.
Cronrath has been playing basketball so long that he cannot remember when he started. Since his birth in Vancouver, Washington, he remembers always having a ball in his hands. Born to a pair of track and field athletes, both his mother and father tried to instill in him the value of being active. As soon as he was old enough to play organized sports, they signed him up.
“I did all sorts of sports,” Cronrath said, but I found my niche in [basketball].” This is rightly so given the results of his career at Battle Ground High School. Upon graduation, he had accumulated several awards including, but not limited to: Greater St. Helens League 1st team, MVP, Most Inspirational Player, and Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.
With the approach of his college career, he opted to become a Corban Warrior and contribute his skill set here, while studying to major in Exercise Science.
“I needed to have school paid for … and at the end [I] felt really safe with Corban,” he says.
Although basketball and finances greatly affected his decision, the religious aspect was important too. The university offered biblical requirements that would push him to learn more than he could by simply attending church.
“Corban was a spot that would force me to grow in my faith, though ‘forced’ sounds wrong,” Cronrath says, adding that coming to study here “was a really good thing.”
Cronrath has impressed teammates and coaches by being both a dominant player and a devout Christian. How does he balance both worlds?
“At times it can be really challenging,” he admits. Opposing teams and players try everything from jersey grabbing to taunting. In these moments, the co-captain always reminds himself that, “We represent God… [it’s] always in the back of my mind.”
Along with the challenge of being a competitive Christian, comes challenge of being a leader of the team. Cronrath admits he is not naturally a vocal leader. However, leadership is not always presented through words. Butler recognizes Cronrath as “a great leader and friend.” While not overwhelmingly vocal, Cronrath lets his work speak for him.
“Erik is probably the hardest worker I have ever coached,” explains coach Justin Sherwood.
This hard work has paid off through recognition from the Cascade Collegiate Conference as one of its best players last season. Also, he has earned the Student of the Week award from the National Christian College Athletic Association.
“Erik has greatly improved during his four years here … and has become a very good basketball player,” Sherwood says.
Have accomplished so much, Cronrath – and the men’s basketball team – still want to do one thing this season: win the championship. As a leader, he realizes what must be done to achieve this final goal during his final year at Corban. Most players might try to lead by scoring and highlights. Cronrath, on the other hand, doesn’t have that mindset. His plan is to “just go in, contribute the best way I can in order to win games.”