WPIAL alum Q&A with Gateway graduate Tom Kromka
For more than a decade, the name Kromka has seemingly always appeared on a Gateway basketball roster. While all of the Kromkas have enjoyed various degrees of success on the hardwood, Tom boasts a particularly impressive career.
He was part of a WPIAL championship team with the Gators in 2012, and now he's a starter at Saint Vincent College. Tom Kromka is featured this week in the WPIAL alum Q&A.
Following in the footsteps of his older siblings, Tom Kromka joined the Gateway varsity basketball team for his sophomore season in 2011-12, and it was quite an initial campaign. Kromka made key contributions to the Gators, who compiled a mark of 21-7. In the postseason, Gateway defeated Penn-Trafford, Seneca Valley and Butler to reach the WPIAL Quad-A championship. In that contest, the Gators edged Central Catholic, 49-39, to capture their second consecutive crown. Gateway also defeated Seneca Valley in the PIAA postseason, before falling to Shaler in the second round.
The following season, the Gators compiled a mark of 16-7. Gateway defeated Kiski Area in the first round of the playoffs, but fell to New Castle in both the WPIAL quarterfinals and the PIAA first round.
In Kromka's senior campaign in 2013-14, Gateway went 14-10. Kromka and the Gators defeated Upper St. Clair in the first round of the postseason, but fell to Kiski Area in the quarterfinals. Individually, Kromka achieved first-team all-section honors.
Following his graduation from Gateway, the 6-foot-5 Kromka joined the basketball team at Carnegie Mellon. He appeared in just four games for the Tartans, however, scoring four total points.
Kromka left the program after his freshman campaign, and eventually joined Saint Vincent for the 2016-17 season. He appeared in all 28 games for the Bearcats, including four starts. Kromka averaged 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds, as well as compiling 53 blocks, 26 assists and 22 steals. Saint Vincent had great team success, with a record of 21-7, including a 15-3 mark in the Presidents' Athletic Conference. In the PAC tournament, the Bearcats defeated Chatham and Bethany, but fell to Thomas More in the PAC championship.
Now as a senior, Kromka has become a fixture in the starting lineup for the Bearcats. He's played in 23 games, and has produced 11.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest. Moreover, Kromka has added 42 blocks, 29 assists and 25 steals. Saint Vincent holds a record of 15-8, including 12-4 in the conference.
Kromka dedicated his time to answer questions about his biggest areas of improvement, his relationships with his older and younger siblings, and what his late high school coach meant to him.
After playing mostly as a reserve last year, you have been a starter for nearly every game this season. What are the differences between the roles?
In my opinion, the role has been very similar; the only difference is that now I am on the court at the start of games, instead of coming in with the first round of substitutions. Both last year and this year, I was more focused on playing hard and making an impact while on the court than thinking about if I was starting or not.
What has been the biggest area of improvement since you started college basketball?
My biggest improvement is definitely my confidence in my game as a whole, and knowing that I can have a big impact on every game if I play to the best of my ability.
You have been a top rebounder for Saint Vincent. What is key to your success on the boards?
It does not take any skill to be good at rebounding; all it takes is toughness and a desire to get the ball. That is what I focus on — I try to treat every shot like a loose ball, and it is my job to go up and get it.
What is the team's outlook for the rest of the season?
Our team is feeling confident and plans on making a run for the championship in the conference tournament at the end of February. We feel like we are the best team in the conference, and we need to show up to play every game and take care of our business.
Where has been the most intense college road venue in which you've played?
Our conference games at Thomas More College are always intense, and their fans always come out for the big games. The games are extra exciting, since they are always battles between the two best teams in the conference in recent years.
What led to your decision to transfer to Saint Vincent?
After my freshman year at Carnegie Mellon University, I had decided that it was not the right academic fit for me, and that I needed to change schools in order to get the most out of my college education. I took community college classes for a year while I weighed my options, until someone put me in contact with coach DP Harris at Saint Vincent. I went up for a visit and loved the campus and the atmosphere of the team, and I felt like it was the perfect fit for me.
What is your major and ideal future profession?
I'm pursing a degree in mathematics and economics, and plan on attending graduate school once I finish undergrad. It's hard to say what my ideal future job is, since there are so many directions to explore, but I am definitely excited about my future.
The Kromka name is synonymous with basketball in Gateway. How much did your older siblings influence your career?
My older siblings were the perfect role models for my younger siblings and me growing up. They worked hard and were great leaders on their respective teams. I simply try to emulate all the things that I saw them do in their basketball careers.
You have a younger brother and sister both who play for Gateway currently. What is your relationship like with them, and how closely do you follow their teams?
All of the Kromka siblings are very close and love to support each other at our respective games. I try to follow their games as closely as I can, and I can always rely on some updates from my parents in the event that I cannot make it to the games.
Your high school coach, Mitch Adams, passed away recently. What did he mean to you?
Mitch was a big figure in my high school years. He coached me, as well as my two older brothers, so I had known him for years before I ever got to Gateway High School. It was a sad day when I learned he passed, and I know many of his former players share that sentiment.
What was your fondest high school memory?
Winning the WPIAL basketball championship in 2012. I started off that year coming off of the bench, and by the end, I started in the championship game at the biggest venue I had ever played at in the A.J. Palumbo Center at Duquesne University. It was exhilarating to be along for the ride on such a great team.
Who is your favorite professional athlete?
I always loved watching Tim Duncan play. I felt he was the ultimate leader and had the utmost respect from all of his teammates, coaches and opponents.
To which movie can you recite nearly every line?
My favorite movie is “Step Brothers.” I cannot even tell you how many times I have seen it, but it makes me laugh every time.
What is your favorite vacation spot, or a place you'd like to visit?
My family owns a small cabin a few hours north of Pittsburgh, and we love to disconnect from the world and head up there to do some fishing.
Sean Meyers is a freelance writer.