Creighton student-athletes, Jacob Epperson, Armando Gandini and Paul Kruse may not share a lot in common, including the sports they play, but they do all relate in the fact that they left their home countries in order to seek the opportunities that Creighton athletics has to offer.
Epperson, a center for the men’s basketball squad, is from Melbourne, Australia. Armando Gandini was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and plays for the Bluejays’ men’s tennis team. Paul Kruse, goalkeeper for the men’s soccer team, has made his trek to Creighton all the way from Heilbronn, Germany.
The three athletes live an average of 5,377 miles from Creighton, but being able to play their sports and study at the same time has made it worth it, according to each athlete.
“I’ve been playing basketball since I was about 4 years old,” Epperson said. “My dad threw me out on the court.”
The opportunity for each to play at Creighton only came to fruition through hard work and communication with their prospective coaches here at Creighton, they said.
Gandini had heard about Creighton at his high school, Instituto Leonardo Da Vinci, and was contacted by his current coach, Tom Lilly. He describes the recruiting process as being different for him because he never even visited campus. He did, however, know that he wanted to come to America to keep his tennis career going.
Epperson, on the other hand, had the chance to come to Creighton on both unofficial and official visits.
“As soon as I had my official, I knew this was the one,” said Epperson. “It was more of a family-based environment, so even though I was far away from home, it felt like home.”
Epperson, who is 6-foot-11 and has dual citizenship in Australia and America, always knew he wanted to play college basketball in America and was influenced by the experiences of his father, who played at the University of Toledo.
Kruse’s recruiting process started with his experience playing soccer for Hoffenheim Academy in Germany for 10 years. He had to decide if he would stay with the academy in efforts to go pro right away or if he would come to America. Kruse said that former Creighton coach and Edenkoben, Germany, native, Elmar Bolowich, called him and told him about all of the things Kruse would be able to do here.
Gandini and Kruse both emphasized the importance for them to be able to study and play their sport without having to give one up.
“I had to make a decision either to play professional without studying or drop soccer in order to study,” Kruse said. “And neither of those was an option for me.”
Being a student-athlete at Creighton gives international business students a chance to do both, he said.
Although Creighton has become a second home to Epperson, Gandini and Kruse, they all have things that they miss about home, including family and friends. Both Epperson and Gandini are envious of the weather in their home countries and specifically miss the food they grew up eating.
“I miss fish and chips,” said Epperson. “I’ve been craving it for a while now, and I can’t get any good fish and chips around here, whatsoever.”
The athletes said Creighton has given them chance to develop both in the classroom and in their sport. All three have had thoughts about going pro, but are choosing to seize the opportunities in front of them first.
Kruse says that his biggest goal is to go pro and that he saw a huge opportunity for himself at Creighton.
“Not only to play, but also develop myself- my character and my game,” Kruse said, “We will see after four years if it’s enough.”
Although their experiences at Creighton are different from one another, they each are thankful for the opportunities Creighton has given them.
Epperson says that nothing beats the friends he has made at Creighton. Gandini says Creighton has given him many opportunities including “to see the world through another perspective.” Kruse is grateful that Creighton has taught him the skills for everything he needs in life, including being competitive, passionate and independent.
“We are living the dream,” Kruse says.