While attempting to block a shot during a preseason scrimmage in November 2011, the then-freshman landed awkwardly and broke his left leg, forcing Crawford to sit out the entire season. But after a strong showing with Team Takeover on the AAU circuit, Crawford has emerged in his first full season with Gonzaga, sparking the top-ranked Eagles from the point guard position and drawing interest from several top Division I programs.
Since receiving his first offer from Indiana in the fall, Crawford has earned offers from Georgetown, Connecticut, Penn State, Rutgers, Seton Hall, South Florida and Texas. Maryland and Virginia have also shown interest in the budding sophomore.
At 8.8 points per game, Crawford won’t blow you away with his stats (yet), but at the same time, that’s what makes him enticing as a point guard. With a top recruit like Kris Jenkins as his teammate, Crawford knows his role and accepts it as a pass-first playmaker who loves setting up his fellow Eagles.
For instance, it was his perfect alley-oop to Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof on Sunday that helped Gonzaga break away from O’Connell and seal the Eagles’ perfect run through WCAC regular season play.
“I see my role as being a leader that gets everybody involved,” Crawford said. “I can score and look for my shot when I need to, but it’s all about making smart plays.”
“With Nate [Britt] leaving, [Crawford] knew he had to step up and he’s had a pretty darn good year for us,” Eagles Coach Steve Turner said. “He doesn’t get caught up in numbers and he’s pretty fun to watch because he’s a special player.”
Earlier this season, Crawford got a dose of what may be expected of him next year. With Jenkins suspended for the Eagles’ WCAC opener at Paul VI on Dec. 3, Crawford asserted himself offensively, scoring 17 points and draining several key free throws despite his admitted nerves.
“I got a little nervous there because I wasn’t expecting it to be so loud,” Crawford said after the 86-79 win.
Since then, the sophomore has shown plenty of poise, which will be key for Gonzaga as it opens play in the WCAC tournament on Saturday.
In the meantime, there’s plenty of other postseason action to keep local hoop heads occupied. Tuesday brought several thrillers:
- Down 44-43 with five seconds left in its Virginia AAA Northern Region quarterfinal matchup against Langley, red-hot Wakefield was in danger of seeing its season cut short. Warriors Coach Tony Bentley drew up a play for his top two scorers, Khory Moore and Ermias Nega, but with time expiring the ball ended up in the hands of Re’Quan Hopson. The junior, who hadn’t hit a three-pointer all season, drained a three at the buzzer for the 46-44 win. “When Re’Quan knocked it down, the crowd rushed the floor and I was so excited that I jumped over the bench,” Bentley said in a phone interview. Bentley said Langley’s zone featuring big men such as 6-foot-6 Brad Dotson slowed down the Warriors, who won despite scoring a season-low 46 points. But it wasn’t enough to stop Wakefield from getting a victory in its last game at home before moving into a renovated gym next year. Next up for Wakefield: Robinson.
- South Lakes also used a buzzer-beater to knock off No. 5 Mount Vernon in the girls’ Northern Region quarterfinals. Caitlin Jensen played the role of hero by nailing a jumper with less than a second left for the 46-45 win.
- South County is playing the role of Cinderella this February. The Stallions, who finished the regular season 8-16, advanced to the Northern Region semifinals with a convincing 74-57 win against Chantilly. Next up: Patriot District rival W.T. Woodson.
- George Mason‘s Stephanie Cheney scored 22 points to surpass 2,000 for her career in a 63-30 win against William Monroe.
VIDEO OF THE DAY
As I wrote about in December, a tough adjustment period almost forced Josh Hart to be kicked out of Sidwell Friends. But the senior swingman has refocused to become one of the area’s top recruits and earn a spot on Villanova’s squad next season.
NUMBER CRUNCH: 23
Points scored by W.T. Woodson‘s Michael Hansler in the Cavaliers’ 85-74 win against Herndon in the Northern Region quarterfinals. The total marked a season-high for the senior, who helped his team overcome a 38-point performance by Herndon’s Will Ferguson.
--Stonewall Jackson moved one step closer to earning its first state tournament berth by beating Gar-field, 60-49, in the AAA Northwest Region quarterfinals. Read Preston Williams’s game story for more details.
–Gonzaga held its spot in the latest ESPN rankings while Theodore Roosevelt dropped out just a week after landing the No. 25 spot.
WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
No. 8 Potomac (Md.) at No. 6 Eleanor Roosevelt, 7:30 p.m.
Two of the area’s hottest teams clash as top junior recruit Dion Wiley leads the Wolverines, winners of 15 straight, against the 21-1 Raiders.