Freshman guard Anthony Ruffolo exceeds expectations

By Maggie Fipps

“At guard, a 6-foot freshman from Dayton, Ohio, number two, Anthony Ruffolo!”

With that introduction, Ruffolo stepped onto the court as the starting point guard for Cedarville University. 

In his first offensive possession, turnover.

In his second offensive possession, missed shot.

Three minutes in, however, Ruffolo found himself in the right place at the right time: underneath the basket to rebound and quickly lay up Ethan Sellars’ missed shot. 

In that first start, Ruffolo scored 26 points to help lead the Jackets to a win, and in the following six starts, he averaged 15 points per game.

On the year, Ruffolo has averaged 11 points and has a chance to be the first freshman to average double digits at Cedarville since 2019.

Anthony joined the Ruffolo family roster as the fifth man, his last name printed not on a basketball jersey, but on a soccer jersey. His older siblings let him know early: If you are a Ruffolo, winning is the status quo.

“They pushed me a lot, they didn’t go easy on me,” Ruffolo said. “And I think that’s helped me to get to where I am, just having them always beating up on me.”

Coach Eric Coulter, Anthony’s high school basketball coach at Archbishop Alter, first coached Anthony’s brothers Robbie and Dominic. 

“His older brother Robbie, he was a shooter, he could score from the outside,” Coulter said. “And his basketball IQ was off the charts.” 

Robbie is now director of basketball operations at UNC Asheville. 

“Dominic was actually an all-American in soccer,” Coulter said. “He had that athleticism, that quick first step, he could get to the basket.”

Dominic is now a graduate student playing soccer at Wright State. 

But the 15-year-old kid that hung around at practice, stealing shots during breaks, he was different. 

“Anthony had the best of both brothers,” Coulter said. 

Anthony is now a key contributor for the Cedarville Yellow Jackets, the first-place team in the G-MAC.

“College athletics was definitely a big thing, but it was never basketball for my family, and basketball was always like what I wanted to do,” said Ruffolo. 

He quickly found his basketball family at Alter, where he joined Gavin Geisel and A.J. Leen, two other All-Ohio Basketball nominees.

“I don’t think I’ve had a trio of seniors that was not only talented, but just all the leadership that all of them brought,” Coulter said.

Ruffolo navigated dual personalities on his high school team and his AAU team. On his AAU team, he came off the bench, quietly shooting close to 50% from three and not so quietly receiving Ivy League attention.

“I’ve started most of my life, but then I’ve actually had the opportunity to go off the bench,” Ruffolo said. “I was on a really good AAU team, going into my senior year, so I was able to get more experience. It’s definitely a lot harder to come off the bench versus starting and being in the flow right away.”

Although his family had not navigated the college basketball recruiting process, they helped Anthony play through a summer of AAU ball, and offers began to come in. 

The high school basketball recruiting circuit plays out like “The Bachelorette:” each player is competing for the same attention in a desperate play for time with a coach or team. Players splice together highlight reels, push out posts on social media, and network with coaches, all to receive a passing glance from a scout. 

But Ruffolo got more than a passing glance from Cedarville’s G-MAC rival Hillsdale. 

“I was almost dead set on going to Hillsdale, so I was very close to committing,” Ruffolo said. “And then [Cedarville] Coach [Eric] Chisholm went to one of my Fall League games and then he’s like, you’ve got to visit.”

Coach Chisholm was at the right place at the right time. 

As soon as Ruffolo joined the team, Chris Rogers, starting guard and grad student, began working out with him. 

“In the summer before day camp, we would workout together before camp started,” Rogers said. “I admired his commitment to his game and how much he cared about getting better.”

“Since the day I got here, he’s been awesome,” Ruffolo said. “He could have easily been not helpful to me in his last year here. He’s always helping me with film. Having someone like that, who’s a 1,000-point scorer, in your corner is really sweet.” 

However, in a weird twist of fate, the Padawan became the master when Ruffolo stepped in as starting point guard when Rogers sustained a finger injury. Rogers has since returned to his spot in the starting lineup, but he never doubted what his protege would become. 

“In his first start, he led our team to a huge non-conference win at home and I wasn’t surprised at all,” Rogers said. “He showed tremendous maturity and skill, just as he has done throughout the year.”

Cedarville’s commitment to faith encouraged Ruffolo throughout the season. The team solidified their spiritual bond when it traveled to Israel over the summer on a trip aptly named “Walk the Story.” 

“We had a great tour guide, and he walked us through everything and just like seeing it, you just have so much of a better appreciation of the Old Testament even and how everything relates to the New Testament as well,” Ruffolo said. ”I was just seeing Jesus’ promises through it all.” 

Just as the team walked the path of Jesus 6,000 miles away, they hope to walk the path of the G-MAC championship, right through Callan Athletic Center. Sitting at 9-1 in the conference, Ruffolo may have the chance to compete for a league title in his freshman season. 

Hopefully, he is at the right place at the right time. 

Maggie Fipps is a junior Journalism student and the Editor in Chief of Cedars. She enjoys playing the piano and thrifting, and you may spot her around campus sporting Packers gear head to toe.

Photo by Logan Howard

1 Reply to "Freshman guard Anthony Ruffolo exceeds expectations"

  • comment-avatar
    Terrii Leisten February 5, 2024 (8:43 pm)

    Lucky to have #2 on the team! We’re enjoying Anthony and team from Dallas Texas. Let’s go Cedarville!