Malte Kramer had the chance to leave Cuesta College after his freshman year in 2011.
The 6-foot-7 sharpshooting men’s basketball forward from Freiburg, Germany, was a strong enough student to qualify then at an NCAA Division I university, and even after a down season by the Cougars’ standards, there were still suitors looking to take the team’s best player to the four-year level.
Knowing he had a year to come back and attract a better crop of recruiters, Kramer held off and returned as a sophomore this past season, but that was before a knee injury threatened his college basketball livelihood.
“That was the first time in my life that I had to sit out for more than a few days,” said Kramer, who was hurt over the summer and hobbled into Cuesta’s season opener. “It was definitely tough. I was so excited to come back. I felt we had a talented team, and all of a sudden, I was out and couldn’t play. I didn’t really know how long it would take.”
In the end, the frustration caused by the bruised patella was only a distant memory Wednesday as the all-state honoree readied to sign his letter of intent to play at Pepperdine. Kramer received the paperwork from the Waves on Wednesday but said he would hold off on sending it back until today.
It makes sense that he would take a little time to savor the moment. While rehabilitating the knee, it felt at times as if this day might not come.
“It was a really frustrating time, but looking back, it helped me grow, and the fact that I got back in time to play the season was big for me,” Kramer said.
“I always said if I find the right fit and I find a place that I want to go to, I’ll leave after one year. I had a couple schools interested the first year that I liked, but the ones that offered weren’t the right fit for me. So, I thought I’d come back for another year, keep improving, and it paid off for me.”
Kramer said he held scholarship offers from Division I programs San Jose State, UC Riverside, Seattle, Jacksonville and Albany. Though Cal Poly requested his transcripts, Kramer said, he was not in contact with Mustangs.
He visited Malibu on Thursday and came back to San Luis Obispo on Saturday planning to give a verbal commitment to Waves head coach Marty Wilson.
Kramer said Pepperdine assistant coach Mark Amaral also played a major role in his recruitment. A Cal Poly assistant the previous two seasons under Joe Callero, Amaral turned up the heat on Kramer in the past two months, visiting Cuesta practices and attending a road game on the Cougars’ march to the Southern California Regional semifinals.
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from commenting publicly on specific recruits before they sign scholarship agreements, but Kramer couldn’t be more sold on Pepperdine.
“It was the complete package of what I was looking for,” Kramer said. “It’s a really good academic school, which was important to me, and the basketball situation, I feel like I could come in and earn playing time right away and help the team with leadership, my age and my athletic ability.”
Primarily a wing player, Kramer led Cuesta with 16.5 points per game and shot 47.1 percent from 3-point range. Kramer actually shot better from the 3-point line than he did on field goals overall (45.9 percent).
Though the scouting report from Kramer’s freshman season dictated that he was unlikely to drive or post up, Kramer worked to disprove those deficiencies.
He made a habit of getting to the line this past season, leading the Cougars with 164 free-throw attempts and sinking 79.3 percent. He was also third on the team with 5.3 rebounds per game.
Kramer started the season slowly, coming off the bench in the first two games. And even though he scored 31 points in an 81-79 victory over West Hills in the championship game of the Cougars’ own Rabobank Tournament in November, it would be a while before he was fully healed.
In Cuesta’s first 18 games, Kramer led the team in scoring seven times, including two 30-point games, but it wasn’t until a 31-point outburst in a Jan. 4 84-79 victory over Ventura in the Western State Conference-North division opener that Kramer was back to 100 percent physically and mentally.
From there, Cuesta lost only two of its last 14 games and put together a 10-game winning streak before falling 83-79 to top-seeded Citrus in the regional semis.
“I always had it in the back of my mind to not put pressure on the knee,” Kramer said. “It was more of a mental thing. From that point on, I got over the whole injury completely.”