Crowder’s breakthrough season powers Marquette
Jae Crowder hadn’t spent much time around snow before.
Safe to say, had he paid a visit to Marquette before he
committed, he might be in a very different place this week.
”I hate (winter), still hate it to this day,” Crowder, who
grew up in Villa Rica, Ga., said Wednesday. ”I dislike it, but I
deal with it.”
And the Golden Eagles are thrilled he does.
The Big East player of the year, Crowder has been the catalyst
for Marquette’s best season since Dwyane Wade took the Golden
Eagles to the Final Four in 2003. Marquette is 25-7 going into
Thursday’s second-round game against BYU, and its No. 3 seed
matches the school record.
”It’s hard to quantify what he’s meant to us,” coach Buzz
Williams said. ”We won 22 games last year, and won 25 thus far
this year. I don’t know that we could have won any of those games
without what he brought to our team.”
Much like Wade, Crowder was overlooked coming out of high
school. Though his father played professional basketball for 14
years – two seasons in the NBA followed by 12 in Europe – Crowder
was as interested in football as he was basketball early on. In
fact, his father didn’t even think Crowder was paying attention
when the youngster tagged along to summer pickup games.
But Crowder was watching. Closely, in fact.
”That sparked something in me,” he said. ”It made me want to
With no big schools interested, Crowder went first to South
Georgia Tech, a junior college, in the hope he could play his way
onto a bigger stage. He led South Georgia Tech to an appearance in
the national tournament, and a Division I scholarship seemed
certain to follow.
But there was a problem, and it was a big one: South Georgia
Tech wasn’t accredited, meaning none of the work he did in his year
If he wanted to play at a Division I school, he’d have to
transfer to another junior college and start over, essentially
cramming two years of classes into one.
”I told him, `It’s difficult, but it’s doable,”’ Corey Crowder
said. ”In my book, as long as it’s doable, no matter how much work
you’ve got to do, you’ve got to do it to get where you want to
Crowder transferred to Howard College, where he led the school
to its first national title and was named the junior college player
of the year. Now he had the interest of schools everywhere, with
coaches making him all kinds of promises.
One, however, would not.
”(Williams) said, `If you want to play for someone who’s on
your (butt) every day, come play for me,” Crowder said. ”If you
want someone to be soft on you, go elsewhere.”
It was the same kind of message he’d been hearing from his
father for years – ”If you’re willing to put in the time and put
in the work, good things will happen for you” – and Crowder was
Never mind that he had never been to Marquette’s campus, and had
no idea just how brutal Midwest winters can be.
”Freezing. FREE-ZING!” Crowder said, laughing. ”It just
snowed, like, last week.”
Because he was still trying to get caught up academically,
Crowder couldn’t spend the summer in Milwaukee and arrived on
campus just as the school year started. He had a decent year,
starting about half the games and averaging almost 12 points and
seven rebounds as the Golden Eagles made a run to the Sweet
But anyone who watched the Golden Eagles could see he wasn’t
anywhere close to his potential.
”I think everybody knew he could play,” Darius Johnson-Odom
said. ”(But) he wasn’t engaged. He didn’t really understand the
pace and the play that we played at at Marquette, but he was
obviously one of our top players.”
Being one of the top players wasn’t enough, however. Crowder
wanted more – both for himself and for the Golden Eagles.
”Your last year in college, you just want to get further and
have a better season than you did collectively the year before,”
Crowder said. ”Individually, I just wanted to have all my numbers
on the defensive end and the offensive end go up.”
He spent last summer in the gym with his father, working on his
offensive game and trying to be more aggressive defensively, and
the improvement was noticeable.
Crowder finished in the top 10 in the Big East in both scoring
and rebounding, averaging 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds, and was
second in the league with 2.4 steals a game. But it was down the
stretch that he was at his best.
In the Golden Eagles’ wild comeback against Villanova on Jan.
28, Crowder capped the 10-point run that got Marquette back into
the game with a 3-pointer as he fell, and finished with 20 points
and 11 rebounds. Three days later, with Wade and LeBron James
sitting courtside, Crowder had another double-double with 20 points
and 12 rebounds.
And over the last seven games, when Marquette was fighting to
lock up one of the top spots in the league, Crowder averaged 23.1
points, 9.4 points and three steals.
”We know he’s a great player,” BYU’s Brandon Davies said.
”It’s going to take a lot to get him stopped.”
Crowder, however, has no intention of slowing down.
Not when he’s so close to accomplishing everything he set out to
do this year.
”That kid hasn’t scratched the surface of his abilities yet,”
Corey Crowder said. ”I don’t think we’ve seen the best of
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