There was something different in the air Saturday night at the Pizzitola Center. The men’s basketball team’s three-game losing streak to open Ivy play seemed far from the minds of the over 2,000 fans who packed the gym. They were there for Cedric.
Cedric Kuakumensah ’16 has blocked more shots than any player in the history of the Ivy League, and a pregame ceremony Saturday honored Bruno’s three-time captain. In a game at Georgetown Dec. 7, Kuakumensah swatted a shot for his 253rd block since entering collegiate ball, breaking Dartmouth’s Brian Gilpin’s conference mark. But when fans poured into the Pizzitola on Saturday, it was not just the blocks they were celebrating.
“It signifies what an impact Cedric has had on our team,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04. “When you think about all the different ways he’s impacted our program, it goes far beyond the numbers.”
The uniqueness of the night was fitting for the celebration of a player whose accomplishments are so rare. Not only does Kuakumensah stand alone atop the all-time blocked shots list, he is also the only Ivy player ever to score over 1,000 points, grab over 800 rebounds and block more than 200 shots.
The pregame ceremony began with an ovation for Gilpin. The 1997 graduate of Dartmouth was all smiles as he handed his record over to Kuakumensah. A long list of Kuakumensah’s accomplishments began to play over the loudspeaker, but the student section could not wait for it to finish before drowning it out with applause as loud as the gym has heard this season.
At the end of the night, Kuakumensah admitted that the game had felt different than any he had played in his four years as a starter for the Bears.
“That energy,” Kuakumensah said with a laugh. “It was great to have in the gym tonight.”
The ceremony ended with the start of the game, but the celebration of Kuakumensah did not. In Bruno’s second possession, the forward stepped out to the perimeter and swished a long three-pointer, opening the scoring and sending the crowd into a frenzy again.
Kuakumensah said the pregame festivities ignited a fire that carried onto the court.
“In the locker room, it was (forward Aram Martin ’17) getting us hyped, and then that ceremony just tipped it off,” Kuakumensah said. “We fed off the energy.”
Two possessions later, another high-arcing three-pointer from Kuakumensah found the bottom of the net. Before the first media timeout of the contest, Kuakumensah added one of his patented rejections on the defensive end, followed by one more trey on offense. Kuakumensah was on fire, and the crowd at the Pizzitola could not get enough.
The long-range shooting showcased one of the many additions to Kuakumensah’s arsenal since arriving on College Hill. Considered a defense-first forward when he was recruited, Kuakumensah has become a leader on offense in the last two seasons.
“His freshman year, when he shot the ball, I said ‘No, Cedric!’” Martin joked after a game in December, adding that now “he can make the three, score inside and obviously he can rebound the ball.”
The Quakers did not stand much of a chance against Kuakumensah on this night. The captain and honoree poured in a career-high 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked five shots — a poetic performance for the crowd favorite. Bruno won a tightly contested 89-83 game.
Kuakumensah’s rim-protecting abilities earned him Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year in each of his first two seasons at Brown, and his all-around game led to Second-Team All-Ivy honors last year. But the personal accolades never mean much to Kuakumensah, who starts every postgame press conference thanking his teammates.
“He’s put in a ton of time to become the player he is,” Martin said. “He always credits his teammates, and he always says we’ve got work to do. That’s what makes him a special guy to coach.”