This was March 5, 2017, the day Mount Pleasant High School of Wilmington was upset and knocked out of the Delaware high school tournament. A sophomore named Kvonn Cramer had 16 points, with several dunks the local newspaper gushed about. “He almost put one back on my head,” an opposing player was quoted. Cramer’s season was over, but what a bright future seemed dead ahead.
Now look at the next time Kvonn Cramer played in an official basketball game.
This was Nov. 29, 2020, more than three years later, and the first media timeout of Hofstra’s season opener at Rutgers. There at the scorer’s table, checking in — 6-6 redshirt freshman Cramer. "It was overwhelming," he would say later. "I'm just thinking about getting back on the court and just ...playing. Doing what I love to do. I was just thinking in the moment, I'm really here, after all I’ve been through."
He would play 23 minutes against Rutgers — 23 blissful minutes. You’ve heard about teams this season having to pause for two weeks because of the virus. Between a bad injury and bad luck, Cramer’s career paused for...1,366 days.
NASA could send a spacecraft to Saturn in under 1,366 days. That is precisely the length of American involvement in World War II. It’s longer than the terms of eight U.S. presidents. It was time enough for North Carolina, Villanova and Virginia to all win national championships — and there would have been a fourth, with no pandemic.
For a kid just wanting to play the game he loves, 1,366 days are an eternity.
"I never came close," Cramer said, "to giving up."
But he could have. Start when he landed awkwardly after one of his majestic dunks in the fall of 2017, six weeks before his junior season was to begin. He felt something pop in his left knee. Later came the word he would need season-ending surgery. "When I went to the doctor and they told me I tore my ACL," Cramer said, "I broke down and started crying. I cried for at least two hours."
Jump to the summer of 2018, when he was just getting his game back and thinking of a big senior season. But something was wrong. He had a sore throat, his knee didn’t feel quite right and was swollen. The doctors took another look: A strep infection had attacked the repaired ligament, eating up 60 percent. "Basically," Cramer said, "there was nothing there."
That meant another surgery, another setback, another rehab. Another foul-fated flock of questions, and maybe some doubt.
"At that point, I’m like, basketball is not going to be there for me. What should I do? Should I stick with it?"
Those closest to him, from his mother on down, said yes. "The support system I had behind me, my friends, my family and God," he said, "they stayed by my side through the whole situation."
Cramer decided not to try to rush back his senior year, but get the knee healed for good. That was hard. He still remembers sitting on the bench, as Mount Pleasant lost its season opener. This was supposed to be his year, and all he could do was watch. He said he went back in the locker room and wept. There was one upside; having to watch basketball for so long, he learned to study it more than ever before. "It helped a lot," he said. "I was looking at the game differently, knowing that I had to do different things on the court to improve my game and make me a better player."
Maybe that could help in college. If any college still wanted him. Many schools had expressed interest when they had gotten a load of his aerial pyrotechnics as a sophomore, but by the time he missed his senior season, he was off a lot of lists.
"Once they heard that, they all just vanished," he said. "The school that stuck with me was Hofstra."
The Pride offered what he wanted to hear: He could redshirt, get the knee and game fully ready, and then try to revive his career.
"The dream was still there, knowing that there was a school that still wanted me," he said.
So he landed at Hofstra last season, and spent a year working to get ready. One day, he would be back. One day came on Nov. 29. It’s a reasonable guess that no player in America welcomed the start of the season more than Kvonn Cramer.
"My passion for the game has grown a lot," he said, "because it’s something I really wanted to do for a long time."
He said the speed of the game took him aback at first — how could it not after 1,366 days? — but he’s getting adjusted. He produced a solid line his first game: Eight points four rebounds, three steals. The next game against Fairleigh Dickinson, he had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds to go with four steals. After five games, he’s averaging eight points coming off the bench. Now, if only the-free throw rhythm will come back. He’s 3-for-14 from the line.
But Cramer will work on that, too, as he’s had to work on everything else just to be out there. Finally.
"It’s everything I’ve dreamed about."