Stan Cromartie has never forgotten roots as he celebrates 20th anniversary of his basketball camp

Former Southeast, MCC star marks 20 years of free camp

adell@bradenton.comJune 20, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Stan Cromartie's athletic feats are the stuff of which Paul Bunyan tales are made.

Take 1982.

The 6-foot-3 Southeast guard finished his senior basketball season as Manatee County's leading scorer and less than 24 hours after his final game joined the Seminoles baseball team without any practice.

He banged out four hits and completed the season second in the county with a .423 batting average, playing nearly every position, including pitcher, catcher and shortstop.

Cromartie didn't play baseball again for five years as he strung together four standout seasons as a basketball player for Manatee Community College and Webber College.

He transferred and was granted a fifth year to play baseball at Edward Waters College, where he led the team in homers while compiling a .375 batting average.

It was good enough to earn him an invitation to the Chicago White Sox extended spring training camp in Sarasota. Unfortunately, his baseball career ended when management told him at 22 years of age he was a little too old for where his career should be.

Cromartie would likely have been a major-league draft pick out of high school, but scouts knew he was going to play basketball.

There was a football career that Cromartie cut short because he fell in love with basketball. He played his ninth-grade year for the Sarasota Ringling Redskins and as a running back was creating tales that people reserved for their favorite folklore.

The Southeast coaches convinced him to play football as a sophomore and made him their starting quarterback on the JV team, where scintillating tales about his dual-threat capabilities began to sprout wings.

But Cromartie was in love. The object of his heart was basketball, and he gave up football to concentrate on the roundball sport.

"It was probably a mistake. I believe I could've excelled in football or maybe baseball, but I just loved the game of basketball," the 48-year-old said.

His achievements might be second to none around these parts because he is unofficially Manatee County's biggest winner on the basketball court.

During a four-year stretch (two at MCC and two at Webber), Cromartie won 115 games and lost 14. As a freshman, he played for an MCC team that set a school record with 29 victories. In his senior year at Webber, his team was 29-0 and ranked second nationally (NAIA) when it lost its first game in a national tournament that featured a couple of players named Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

Harry Kinnan, MCC's recording-setting coach, calls Cromartie one of his favorite players and a guy who willed his teams to win because of his fierceness.

Kinnan always talks about a play Cromartie made on the road against Florida College that defined him as a person and player.

"He dove over the scorer's table and into the bleachers trying to get a loose ball that I am pleased to say he got," Kinnan said. "His overall intensity was his best attribute. It just takes one player to play with that sort of fire that stimulates a whole team, and he did that. His passion for the game rubbed off on his teammates. He was also probably the smartest player I ever coached."

Cromartie chose a sport that has always been secondary to football in his hometown. He wonders what could've been if had taken another path, but has no regrets.

"Basketball was never a sport to be recognized in Manatee County and I was better at football," Cromartie said. "I played every day at either East Bradenton Park or the Bradenton Boys and Girls Club and was on the county's first AAU basketball team."

Cromartie was the head men's basketball coach at Seminole Community College for eight years and at Edward Waters in his first stint there.

After working some of the top basketball camps in the country, Cromartie started his own camp in 1993 in Bradenton. It will celebrate its 20th anniversary next week under the direction of Cromartie's son, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a defensive back with the Denver Broncos.

The elder Cromartie is most proud that he has never charged any money for his camps and hopes someday it might contribute to rejuvenation of the sport in Manatee County. He is thankful to Carl Weeks, the retiring president of the Boys and Girls Club, for helping him get started.

The event was moved to the Palmetto Boys and Girls Club, where it will be held next Wednesday through Friday. On Saturday, his son will hold a one-day football camp that will also be free at the 13th Avenue Dream Center.

"I saw the amount of money kids were paying to go basketball camps around the country and wanted to bring something to my town and not charge anything. We were fortunate to get local sponsors who helped," Cromartie said.

"I bothers me a lot that there is not a lot of success here in basketball, but I think it will grow with the young high school coaches we have in Elliot Washington (Southeast), Reggie Bellamy (Palmetto) and Troy Bellamy (Manatee)."

A lot of people don't know that Rodgers-Cromartie played basketball at Tennessee State, where he was first-round NFL draft choice. He recently signed as a free agent with Denver.

"Dominique is doing great. He even picked off Peyton Manning twice in a recent scrimmage. He is starting at cornerback opposite Champ Bailey and is more focused on his career," Cromartie said.

Cromartie credits Kinnan and his coach at Southeast, Wayne Stellfox, for helping him the most in his basketball career. Stellfox, the former MCC women's coach, took Cromartie on a basketball trip to the Poconos in Pennsylvania as a sophomore, and that solidified his desire to become a top-notch player.

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