For Samantha Krumbhaar, academics were the determining factor when choosing a college. Basketball was secondary, although still an important piece.
When Rensselear Polytechnic Institute sent the North County High standout student-athlete a letter, she was intrigued. Krumbhaar consulted with teacher Dennis Sullivan, who “raved” about the private research university in Troy, N.Y.
“I trusted Mr. Sullivan’s opinion, so I applied to RPI then emailed the women’s basketball coach,” said Krumbhaar, a four-year starter who graduated as North County’s all-time leading scorer.
RPI head coach John Greene watched Krumbhaar’s highlight tape and was impressed. He attended the 27th annual Capital Gazette Senior All-Star Classic and watched the Glen Burnie resident total 13 points, four rebounds and two steals.
“Sam was clearly one of the best players on the floor. In terms of ability, I thought she could have played at a level above,” said Greene, noting RPI is a Division III program. “Basketball-wise, it was clear she could be a difference-maker for our program.”
Greene sat in the stands with Krumbhaar afterward to further pitch the virtues of RPI and its women’s basketball program. They were interrupted by another collegiate coach who wanted to speak with Krumbhaar.
“I got my Irish up and told the coach to wait his turn,” Greene recalled. “I’d put too much effort into recruiting Sam. I was not about to be cut short.”
Greene need not have worried. Krumbhaar knew the value of an RPI education and had made up her mind at that point.
Fast forward five years and Krumbhaar recently completed an outstanding athletic and academic career at RPI as a three-time All-Liberty League selection who earned a degree in architecture.
“Samantha Krumbhaar will leave as one of the top players in the history of RPI women's basketball. What makes Sam special among special people is her genuine toughness, genuine caring and genuine being,” Greene said.
“She never backs down from any challenge and never takes any plays off — not in pickup, not in individual workouts, not in drills, not in the weight room, not in conditioning, not in practice, not in games,” Greene added.
Krumbhaar was a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) student at North County, a National Honor Society member who graduated top 10 in her class while taking all advanced placement courses.
She credits Mike Francis, boys’ basketball coach at North County and Old Mill before becoming football coach at Meade, with providing private instruction that helped the first team public school coaches All-County selection with skills development.
Studying architecture at RPI is extremely demanding and Krumbhaar admittedly struggled at times as a freshman. She nonetheless led the team in scoring (13.8 points per game) and steals (37) despite coming off the bench.
“Sam would have been the conference Rookie of the Year if she had not been an architecture student,” Greene said.
Krumbhaar finally moved into the starting lineup as a junior and earned honorable mention All-Liberty League. She averaged 11.3 points and led RPI in steals (43) for the third straight season.
“To be honest, my focus on basketball started to slip a little when I was a junior. School was very difficult, and basketball began to feel like a bit of an extra burden,” Krumbhaar said.
Krumbhaar did not play basketball during the 2018-19 school year, largely because she spent January through April doing an internship. She was part of a research program at the Center for Architecture, Science and Technology in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“We were looking at new materials for architecture and other applications,” said Krumbhaar, who routinely worked 12-hour days. “I spent most of my time studying the potential for hemp as a building material.”
Taking a year off from basketball proved refreshing for Krumbhaar, who realized she missed the competition and camaraderie. She said she came back “much more dedicated” with “a new-found passion for the game.”
"I had a new-found passion for the game,” she said. “My fifth year, I gave more to basketball than I ever had before."
Greene was amazed that Krumbhaar returned to the team in the best physical condition of her career, the result of diligently doing individual workouts while in Brooklyn.
Krumbhaar played her best basketball as a senior, establishing career-highs across the board in averaging 16.2 points and 4.2 rebounds, while amassing 67 steals and 66 assists. She was finally named first team All-Liberty League along with All-East Region by D3hoops.com.
“Sam was at the top of her game as a fifth-year senior,” Greene said. “It was very rewarding to see Sam reach her potential and earn the recognition she deserved.”
Greene cited an example of Krumbhaar’s commitment to the program. RPI had an important league game at Saint Lawrence the night before its senior starting point guard had to deliver a critical lecture for a class.
Krumbhaar played in the game and helped RPI to victory then rented a car and made the almost five-hour drive from Canton to Troy.
Krumbhaar completed her career ranked sixth in RPI history with 1,307 career points. She also ranks highly in rebounds (319), steals (194) and assists (152).
Krumbhaar has already nailed down a full-time job with Wiss, Janney, Elstner — a renowned architectural firm that has an office in Falls Church, Virginia. She was hired as an enclosure consultant and is due to start in late July.
“Samantha Krumbhaar is just an incredible person — very intelligent, very driven and very caring. She is also mentally, physically and emotionally tough,” Greene said. “Sam brightens the lives and gives inspiration to others by the testimony of her life.”