Former Gator guard Dan Cross was known for his steady play in the backcourt during UF’s run to its first Final Four in school history in 1994.
After a successful pro basketball career overseas, Cross has found a second act mentoring young athletes as rewarding. He returned to Gainesville this week to give back to the game he loves, hosting his 13th annual All Fundamentals Basketball Camp at St. Francis High School.
“To do anything for 13 years is a complement to staff and to the support in the community,” Cross said. “This is my way of taking that to Gainesville and to the Gator Nation and so, I think this proves that there’s a need to continue to develop our youth in the community and our skill development and I’m happy to be able to provide that service.”
In addition to his camps, Cross also is involved in basketball as the director of three travel teams (ages 17-under, 16-under and 15-under) in the Orlando area. Cross coaches the 17-under team and oversees two others.
“It’s my way of just keeping my hands and touching basketball in way that I choose to,” Cross said. “I never really saw myself as a college coach, at least growing up because of my small kids. This gives me the itch that I need and the therapy that I need to say, hey, I’ve given back to the game and keep me around the game.”
What does Cross think about today’s high-school aged players?
“Every kid feels like they’re entitled and that they know everything and they think they’re going to be the next LeBron James and the next Steph Curry, which means that they watch a lot of TV and this means that they’re smart because they pick up things very easy,” Cross said. “But it’s just a new generation of kids …
“Have to be very patient but I get a lot of joy in teaching because I can relate to a lot of the inner city kids and at risk kids and kids that are coming from one single family home. It really doesn’t matter what culture or color or race, most of the kids are going through some type of divorce, something is going on at home or at school that allows me to be an integral part of their lives.”
Cross is a father to a pair of teen children. Both are involved in athletics, but not basketball. Cross’s 17-year-old son Daniel, is a receiver at East River High in Orlando. His daughter, Rachel, plays volleyball.
“Football is what he wanted to do,” Cross said. “Didn’t want the pressure of tying to follow in daddy’s footsteps and that’s the direction that he wanted to go in and my daughter was active in volleyball and very smart in her books.”
Cross has made the transition from professional basketball to the second stage of his career, forming Athlete Connections, a company designed to help athletes coming out of college find jobs in their communities.
“It’s always a tough transition of doing something your entire life to trying to figure out what is next, what you want to do in life and now that may make you happy and give you the fulfillment as much as basketball did for me,” Cross said. “That’s taken some time and you lose friends, you lose relationships along the way. You figure out, what else am I good at, what else to I want to be in life. I think I’ve served a niche, a purpose in service and hopefully I can continue to do so.”
Cross said the bonds with his former 1994 teammates at UF, though, remain strong.
“That bond will never change,” Cross said. “Those are my closest friends, my best friends, brothers that have now also transitioned as well. We have a reunion every year, we come back to Gainesville every year to football and basketball games. So we’re very connected.”