When Tulane's women's basketball team plays SMU on Monday night at Devlin Fieldhouse in its final regular-season game, it will celebrate two very different seniors.
Kolby Morgan is finishing up a remarkable career. Caylah Cruickshank has been a reserve her entire four years with the Green Wave. The differences don't end there.
“They are very different types of people, but they are great friends, they're great together, and I think both have contributed to the program in their own ways,” coach Lisa Stockton said.
They came in together as freshmen, Morgan the coveted recruit from New Orleans who prepped at John Curtis, and Cruickshank from Montreal's Dawson College prep school. They have been roommates for all but their junior years.
Morgan enters Monday's game in Tulane's all-time top 10 in 16 statistical categories, including first in games started (127) and field-goal attempts (1,768) and second in field goals made (752), 3-pointers made (241) and points (2,168).
“She's a star player that's unselfish and includes her teammates in the game,” Stockton said. “I think sometimes that's unique. And she's a star player who is very coachable.
“When she was a freshman, when went to a new league that is harder and more challenging. She accepted that challenge and has grown throughout her career. I think she's going to have a career after she leaves here and will be very successful.”
Stockton said as much about Cruickshank, a business major with an impressive grade-point average and perhaps an even more impressive attitude. Cruickshank, who has averaged 2.4 points per game coming off the bench primarily as a defender, has been in the starting lineup the past three games because of the energy she brings, Stockton said. Stockton said Cruickshank has been perhaps her favorite player to coach.
“I've never met a person that is so optimistic and so upbeat all the time, and so unselfish,” Stockton said. “I've seen her on the bench cheering for the people that were in front of her, knowing that she's not going to play if that player plays well.
“She's one of those who is doing to do so well in life because she'll motivate everybody around her. She's a hard worker, everything that you'd want in somebody, and she's smart.”
The two have great admiration for each other. Cruickshank said there has been a lot of hard work behind the stats Morgan has compiled.
“A lot of times, she'll go to the gym late at night to shoot and work on her game,” Cruickshank said. “She's someone who plays with intensity and hates to lose. She never gives up.”
Said Morgan: “(Cruickshank) is a great role model for me, off the floor for sure. She's really on her game in the books. That's something I look up to.”
With both being shooting guards, they often square off against each other in practice. Cruickshank, who became a defensive specialist in order to find a role, said it often got testy between them.
“All the time,” Cruickshank said. “It can get physical, and she's like 'That's a foul!' And, I'm like, 'It's not a foul!'
“But going against one of the best players in the conference all the time has made me better, and we push each other.
“We have a great relationship, and have remained close. We get our nails done together and our feet done together.”
This season, though, has not gone as well as the two envisioned for the Wave (12-16, 4-11), which is playing SMU (10-18, 4-11) on Monday. Tulane received its most recent NCAA tournament berth when they were freshmen. Back-to-back appearances in the WNIT followed, but that won't happen this season.
Tulane will play in the AAC tournament next weekend. Both wish things would have gone better this season, but they have no regrets. Cruickshank said she's had an amazing experience at Tulane. Morgan said she gave it her all.
“I went out there every night playing as hard as I could, and I would not have wanted to play this season with any other teammates,” she said. “I've had an injury-free career. Sometimes, you just come up short.”