No one could break a zone defense like Danny Kraus--after all, he had been doing it since the age of 11.
"Just as a joke, Elmer Ripley pitted a team of 11-year-old New York youngsters against Temple University's famed championship five at a basketball clinic in Madison Square Garden," wrote the Associated Press in a 1943 article. "What Rip saw made him gasp. The kids passed the ball in, around and through the zone and scored with monotonous regularity. And Temple wasn't fooling."
Ripley kept tabs on the kids from that exhibition, so when two time all-PSAL guard Dan Kraus was looking at colleges, Ripley convinced him to join his old teammates from that 1935 clinic at Georgetown, where Ripley had formed the nucleus of Georgetown's original Final Four team. In his first varsity season, Kraus starred at point guard alongside a lineup of freshmen and sophomores that roared through Eastern basketball and won 21 of 25 games before falling to Wyoming in the NCAA championship final.
For the season, Kraus finished third in scoring that season and was a key contributor throughout the season, none more so than in a memorable game against an unit of former college players stationed at the Quantico (VA) Marine Base.
"The Marine unit had Georgetown's number through most of the game, and even a spirited Georgetown comeback late in the second half could cut the Leathernecks' lead to four, 52-48, with two minutes to play," as recalled in this site's narrative of the 1943 season. "At this point [Elmer] Ripley sent Danny Kraus back on the floor...with the team's playmaker back in action, the Hoyas were ready to go. A John Mahnken head fake opened the way for the 6-8 center to pop a jumper, to close the gap to two. A Quantico misfire on their next possession offered Jim Reilly a set shot with time running down to tie the score. Then, preparing for the winning field goal, the Marines' play was picked off by Danny Kraus. With the clock about to turn over, Ripley yelled to Kraus: "Shoot!" As the gun sounded, Kraus' 15 foot jumper was aloft, sailing between the twines and earning Georgetown an improbable 54-52 win. Legend has it that the Marines were so angry at the college boys for the steal and eventual winning score that the Hoyas left the base under armed guard to prevent any hard feelings by the defeated Marines."
After wartime duty, Kraus returned to Georgetown in the fall of 1946, where he turned in another strong season. Averaging 12 points a game and leading the team to a 19-7 season, Georgetown narrowly missed the NCAA and NIT tournaments. For his efforts that year, Kraus was named to Sport Magazine's second team All-America list, the third of five All-Americans for Georgetown basketball prior to the John Thompson era.
With a number of his teammates having graduated in 1947, Kraus led the Hoyas back for the 1947-48 season, but the overall results were disappointing. The Hoyas opened the season 6-0, but saw a fierce Midwestern road trip, a difficult national schedule, and the mid-season departure of its leading scorer cause the Hoyas to drop 14 of its next 17. With a role as a defensive stopper first rather than a scorer, Kraus picked up the offense for the struggling Hoyas, scoring 14 against NYU, 12 at Penn State, and 13 at Villanova down the stretch. His late season efforts paid off, with Georgetown winning four of its last five to finish 13-15, earning him All-District honors for his final season.
Elmer Ripley called Dan Kraus "the kind of a ball player who makes a team click," and the notable successes of the 1943 and 1947 teams were in considerable part a byproduct of Kraus' floor leadership. Contemporary accounts lauded his playmaking skills and the ability to make those around him better. Statistics remain incomplete for Kraus abilities on the assist or the steal, but nothing suggests that he was not capable of both in considerable numbers.
Excepting the walk-on club which played for Georgetown in 1945-46, the scholarship teams of 1943 and 1947 rank among Georgetown's best of all time. The two teams won a combined 41 of 53 games, in as many as four different home arenas around town. The 19 wins recorded by the 1946-47 team was not matched by a succeeding Georgetown team for 29 seasons, and its sterling 9-2 road record was not topped until the 1983-84 season. By any measure, Kraus' teams at Georgetown were something special.
Following college, Kraus played a season with the Baltimore Bullets before beginning a long career in government service and was selected to the inaugural class of the Georgetown Athletic Hall of Fame in 1958. One of four starters on the 1943 team that went on to the NBA, the contributions of Dan Kraus to Georgetown basketball are among the finest of any era.