Caylah Cruickshank is a student of the game at Tulane University

Egbert Gaye

Sometimes life’s lessons caKn weigh heavily on your shoulders as they did for Caylah Cruickshank, having to face the reality that you can’t always control the game.
After starring on the basketball court for St. Thomas High School  and for Dawson College, both of which she led to several provincial championships while securing scores of individual awards, the young Montrealer is now just another player, trying to earn her place on the team at Tulane University.
Coming off her first year playing Division 1 baskekball in the United States, Caylah says not only were the minutes and the points harder to come by, but there was also the mental adjustment of going from the go-to person on the court to waiting your turn on the bench.
“First thing I had to do was to condition my mind to not being the star,” she told the Contact. “Then, I had to come to terms with the challenge and adversity of playing at this level.”
At St. Thomas High School, Caylah averaged well over 20 points per game, as team captain, winning four divisional championships.
At Dawson College her stand-out years included an undefeated season, a silver medal at the provincial and national levels, and an invitation to the Canadian National Junior team. Her average was about 14 points per game.
In her first season at Tulane, she is averaging about eight minutes per game and four to five points.
“It was a little bit of a shock to deal with,” she says.
To deal with it she had to remember what her mother always preached to her about “patience and courage.”
“Also, I quickly realized that it was not so much about the points but more about your role and finding ways to make the team and the other players around you better.”
To get there, Caylah says, it means learning the coach’s system and the fundamentals of that system.
“I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far is at that level, where most of the players are so skilled, it’s the attention to details and following the basics that make the difference.”
As she prepares for her second season, Caylah says she  is trying to stay as physically fit as posible while preparing herself mentally to play a bigger role on the team.
At 5’8” and 150 pounds (she packed on a frightening amount of weight in the first few months training with the team), she says she feels ready to take on whatever is thrown at her.
She plays as a combo guard (both point guard and shooting guard).
As expected, Caylah is excelling academically, as she has done throughout high school and college.   She earned A-s in all but one of her courses this past semester.
Earlier this year she earned a “Scholar Athlete of the Month” award  for excelling in the classroom, as well as working hard on the basketball court.
And at the end of the year, she was recognized as a member of the“3.0 club”, which honors student-athletes who maintain a high grade point average throughout the school year.
She is currently following a business stream but says that by spring, she has to declare her major. Chances are, she says, she will stay in the stream and  choose Business Management.
She counts among the many highllights of her freshman year with the Green Wave of Tulane University, her two appearances against  UConn, the nation’s Number One team and going up top US guard, Moriah Jefferson.
He is also mighty proud of her team’s 22-11 overall record , which earned them an appearance at the NCAA March Madness Tournament, which she describes “as an amazing experience.”
“We were knocked out in the first round, but it was great being there with the top 64 teams in the country, with so many really good players was special. “
But that’s in the past.
These days the 20-year-old Cote des Neiges resident who made her name on courts around Montreal, has her eyes set on taking  her  rightful place as one of the leaders on her team and making her mark on the NCAA circuit across the USA.
“One game at a time,” she says.