When the John Carroll University men’s basketball team plays their final game this season it will be the end of a dynasty … sort of.
That final game will mark the conclusion of a lengthy run made by seniors T.J. DiSanto and Rudy Kirbus.
The two grew up on the same street in Willoughby Hills, Ohio and have been playing organized basketball together since the sixth grade at St. Paschal Baylon in Highland Heights, Ohio.
From their small beginnings, both made their way to Cleveland’s St. Ignatius High School.
As Wildcats, they excelled on and off the court, as each graduated with over a 3.0 GPA.
During their senior season the two were named co-captains of the basketball team, and in that campaign Kirbus became the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Playing together for those seven years not only forged a bond between the two, but also provided an extra advantage on the court.
“It definitely helped out a lot,” DiSanto said about being teammates with Kirbus. “We both are very aware of each other’s strengths in the game.”
Their companionship continued as both enrolled at JCU in 2006. As if they had not already spent enough time together, they decided to be roommates.
The duo played a pivotal role in the team’s success their freshman year as they each started 12 games for the Blue Streaks as JCU made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament.
Sophomore year saw more of the same production as DiSanto started 19 of 25 games and Kirbus contributed over 13 points a game.
The 2008-2009 season brought an element that neither player had experienced in nine years.
When DiSanto decided to take a year off from the team and study abroad in Italy for the second semester it made for a difficult adjustment.
“It was definitely strange when he wasn’t here last year,” Kirbus said. “When you’ve played with someone since 6th grade and they’re not there all of a sudden, it takes some getting used to.”
Senior year has brought the two back together on the court for one final run together, where the team has once again locked up an OAC title for the school.
Both players are certainly aware of the kind of rare experience they have been able to share with one another.
“Having the opportunity to play on the same grade school, high school and college team with the same person is something a lot of people don’t get to do,” Kirbus said. “It has been a special experience I am sure we will never forget.”
Even though the last whistle this season will signify the end of a long playing partnership, it surely will not symbolize the end of a friendship.
“It will be sad that playing basketball together is over,” DiSanto said. “But we’ll still be friends and that’s more important.”