Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder will be taking his game to the NBA next year, having completed a storied career at Marquette under head coach Buzz Williams. The 6'6 forward seems destined to be a fan favorite, and will hopefully get a chance to interject some toughness and a grinder mentality into our Dallas Mavericks.
For a lot of you that don't follow college basketball, Crowder is probably not much more than a name on a computer screen at the moment. Brewtown Andy, of SB Nation's Marquette blog, Anonymous Eagle, was gracious enough to answer some questions for us about the newest Mav. Enjoy, and if you have the time please head over to their site and check things out.
Dallas seemed to identify two main traits with their three draft picks: character, and defensive toughness. Crowder is, in addition to being Big East National Player of the Year, known as a great defensive player, as is Bernard James, and Jared Cunningham was 1st team all defense in the Pac-12. All three also come off as mature and intelligent in interviews. How would you characterize Crowder's game, and what makes him capable of succeeding at the next level?
It's hard to put what Jae Crowder did for Marquette over the last two seasons into a small enough box to be able to characterize it quickly. I suppose that the easiest way to do it is to say that he's the best all around player I've seen come through Marquette in the 20 or so years that I've been watching. He has the shooting touch to finish near the rim and behind the arc. Crowder has too much strength for college guards to attack him and too much quickness for big men to be able to push him around.
As far as capable of succeeding, his physical gifts may not cause anyone to point to him and say "That guy's going to be a star," but his work ethic and willingness to be the guy who you can trust to do his job on the court at all times will lead to coaches finding a place for him.
On the subject of defense, it seems Marquette produces quality perimeter defenders with regularity, recently graduating stoppers Wes Matthews, Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler to the NBA. Is there something specific in Buzz Williams' coaching style that prepares these players so well?
Buzz Williams' defensive emphasis (as seen here) can drive some Marquette fans crazy, as it tends to lead to open three point attempts. What this ends up teaching Marquette players, though, is that they HAVE to be ready to move at all times. If the ball is moving, you have to react to it to help on defense. The combination of the requirement to move to help and the awareness of knowing when to move to help is what builds better defenders both from an athletic viewpoint and a basketball IQ standpoint.
The big knock on Crowder seemed to be a perceived lack of position, as he fits into the "tweener" SF/PF category. How was he best deployed at Marquette, and where do you think he best projects at the next level? Does he have the ball skills to play out of the perimeter or is he better off working inside and trying to use his hustle and smarts to mitigate the lack of height?
I'd say that everything Crowder did at Marquette was largely successful because of hustle and smarts before it was anything skillful or a natural talent that he has. He's never going to be a guy who can take someone off the dribble, but he is the guy who's going to find the open spot on the floor that no one's paying attention to and get an easy basket. Grantland's The Triangle blog put together a nice assessment of what Crowder can do off of cuts. Buzz is fond of saying that he doesn't have positions for guys on the floor and wants "switchables," at least for defensive purposes. I think Buzz might be ahead of the curve, especially given the lack of quality big men. It's possible that Crowder's ability to use his speed and agility to stay with stronger players means he actually can play power forward in the NBA as the league develops.
Since comparisons are so popular these days, is there an NBA player, past or present, you see when watching Crowder?
As I was originally reading through the questions, I thought "uh oh" when I read this one. We're talking about the only player in Marquette history to manage 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in just two seasons and a guy who fell just one steal short of Marquette's all time single season steals record while being 6'6" in shoes and defending the post most of the time.
And then it popped into my head. Jae Crowder's best comparison that I can think of is a poor man's Charles Barkley. Undersized power forward who could still rebound and shoot from the outside a bit? Sounds a lot like Crowder to me.