Even though this past weekend can now officially be called a “football weekend”, there is still basketball to be played, thus we need to continue on the previewing path with the man known as Joe Crawford. When the heavily anticipated class of 2004 arrived on campus, Crawford was the man who spoke the least. With Ramel Bradley the talker, Randolph Morris the most highly thought of and Rajon Rondo the instant starter, Joe molded into the background a bit and folks began to wonder what they had in the man from Michigan. Crawford got off to a somewhat slow start and found himself rarely playing behind the similar Kelenna Azubuike, prompting him to transfer in a fit of short-sightedness after a game in which he saw no court time. Thanks to Tubby Smith (and Tom Izzo), he came back and quickly became a starter in his sophomore season.
For UK fans, Joe Crawford has always been a bit of an enigma. It is clear that he has unbelievable athleticism and a scorer’s mentality. However he often disappears on the court and sometimes seems to be playing a different game than his teammates. However this writer believes Joe’s best days are ahead of him and that this season, Joe has the potential to develop into the player that we have all been waiting for. With this team in desperate need of consistent perimeter scoring, Joe Crawford will be the first option on most occasions. If Crawford can take the bull by the horns and play up to his potential, the team will have a reliable offensive presence and an athletic perimeter defender….and Tubby Smith can have one less position to worry about at crunch time.
And then there are these takes….
Joe Crawford “I’m the J-O-E to the C hoe Call me Joe C…got more game than Coleco” Soooo, technically not a quote from our Joe C. (think pint size white rapper with Kid Rock) but still pretty appropriate. On to our Joe C. : Not since the sinking of the Krusk in the Barent’s sea circa 2001 has a young man been surrounded by so much external pressure. Kentucky’s fate may well rest onthe ability of Joe to put the biscuit in the basket and take over on Kentucky’s offensive end. Because our centers (sorry Woo and Jared) sometimes cant score in a monkey whorehouse with a sack full of bananas, Joe will be expected to produce on a nightly basis at a level that would satisfy the likes of even the Bishop Don Juan.Without a consistent output from Joe, things may ge tiffy. If he doesn’t perform to his potential this year, UK’s post season may end more abruptly than a tour of the New York skyline courtesy of Cory Lidle. If Joe plays well, look for benefits trickling down like a Reagan tax plan. If he shoots well outside, the post will open up; if he beats people off the dribble, help defense will allow dump-offs to Perry, Morris, and to the face of Woo. This season’s success is riding A LOT on Joe- hope he’s ready.
First of all, the guys on “Dancing with the Stars”were a little heavy on the eyeliner the other night… Whoops!that’s for a different blog that I write on. This week’s paragraph concerns Joe C. and I feel that it is necessary to delve into his background to fully understand the legend that is Joe Crawford. Born in Kentwood, Louisiana to an astronaut, a brand manager for Proctor and Gamble Consumer Goods, and the conductor of the Lower Bowens’ Creek Philharmonic (it was a complex arrangment), young Joe spent his days hanging out at the various carnivals that would come through town making the acquaintance of the various carni-vores(that is the appropriate word for a carnival worker, right?) that he encountered. While he learned a great deal from this fascinating culture including how to operate a Tilt-A-Whirl, how to”borrow” a smoke from guys with a corndog in each hand, and how to avoid throwing up on the Scrambler (the key is to eat crackers and drink 7-Up BEFORE you’re nauseated), his most important learning would come from a rough-looking fellow whose cut-off jean shorts were always accompanied by penny loafers and a lack of socks. The drifter’s name was “Shifty” and, while he wasn’t much to look at, he could wear out the”Basketball Shoot” after the carnival had closed. Shifty took young Joe under his wing and taught himthe fundamentals of the jump shot. “Elbow in…flick the wrist… follow-through…check out that skank with the halter top that smells of imitation “RedDoor” and Robitussin! She is so fine!” All these Joe memorized and practiced over and over at the carnival. After years under Shifty’s tutelage, Mr. Tubby Smith came a callin’ and Joe embarked upon a grand adventure up north to the Bluegrass. That adventure was almost cut short during Joe’s freshman year as his carnival sickness almost got the better of him and he actually left the Cats for a short time to come back to Louisiana. However, Shifty was right there with sage advice as usual and encouraged Joe by making some analogy involving basketball and a Ferris Wheel. Joe would return to the Cats where he would struggle to find his place on a team where he was counted on as the “3”, and although he would occasionally show flashes of brilliance, his consistency was constantly in question, as was his weight. Fast forward to junior year where team dieticians, Nicole Richie andKate Bosworth, showed Joe how to lose the pounds that had made him appear slow and, at times, as energetic as a Norah Jones concert the year before. The new Joe has looked very impressive in his lone appearance infront of the Big Blue faithful, and it’s not a stretch to think he could average 17 ppg or better this year. While his defense has been suspect (Shifty don’t teach defense, man)remember that Azubuike transformed from adefensive liability his freshman year to guarding the most athletic wing of the competitor his junior year. A similar story for Joe would not be unreasonable. I predict that Joe comes into his own this year as he matures and becomes more confident in his abilities onthe court. I don’t envision him being a leader (Perry and Ramel will handle those duties), but he will be a positive influence on the freshman and show them howto prepare the right way. Joe picks up 2nd-teamAll-SEC honors this year and becomes a Keith Bogans-type player on offense, and a Rachel McAdams-type (not stunning, but pretty good nonetheless) on defense. As Joe considers his success this year, he will no doubt think back to a certain carnie in rural Louisiana with unkempt hair, athree-day growth beard, and an addiction to huffing gasoline. “I always knew you could do it, Joey, I always knew. Dang! That chick’s drivin’ a ’84T-topped Camaro. You know she’s cool!”
If the expressions on the University of Kentucky’s favorite hang dog guard were akin to the inspirational plaques which hang on the wall behind the out-of-touch Karen in Accounting at your worplace, they would most likely read, respectively, I Hate Mondays, You want it WHEN?? and Hammer Time. Truly the looks on the young Crawford’s face alternate between worried, nervous, and fiercely competitive. But that’s what we’ve come to expect from this team’s own little Ziggy, a plucky do-gooder who looks like the world rests upon his shoulders, but is clearly adept at taking his moment to shine and riding it home. The Crawford Acquisition of 2004, as the history books will surely one day call it, stole the hyped shootist right out from under the nose of a team who would call him a Wolverine. It was widely known at that time that Crawford’s father, who clearly had not watched a basketball team since 1992, wished his offspring to attend the University of Michigan. But as is often the case with University of Kentucky basketball (and some may argue in the Smith Household), if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, and soon Crawford was backing out of a commitment in his home state and heading to the bluegrass. While his first few months were admittedly rocky (occasional reports have detailed an elaborate system of tunnels dug beneath Wildcat Lodge with a plastic spoon in hopes of a magnificent escape), Crawford stole away in the dead of night only to return to Rupp a few months later to receive, perhaps surprisingly, quite the hero’s welcome. Let’s just chalk up Crawford’s initial reticence, however, up to the new pressures of attending college — clearly Crawford went through the same throes many young freshmen encounter at a new school. After all, he did hail from Detroit, so a frustrating lack of freestyle rap battles denied him the comforts of home in Lexington. And, being from Michigan, he probably didn’t own a pair of flipflops, which is these days an absolute for any would-be BMOC. Toward the end of his debut season, however, fans came to embrace Crawford not only as Kentucky’s own answer to Hootie and the Blowfish’s Darius Rucker(pre-Burger King marketing), but as an underdog kid that they could get behind. Crawford indeed has shown the makings of a great player, and if this season champions his greatest season yet, the Wildcat Nation can expect big things from this young man. And if, as his tumultuous past with this team has shown, it’s true that he only wants to be with us, we should hold his hand.
Lets face it: the Kentucky basketball fan can sometimes be slightly irrational. We all have that one player on the team that we consistently rag, with the jabs becoming increasingly jagged as the season goes on. Phrases such as “Sheray Thomas would trip jumping over a credit card” or “Saul Smith would be a solid point guard…..if he transfers to Transy” are two such examples.
On the same hand that guy always has the one UK player that he loves no questions asked. The one that is awarded a free pass no matter what is happening that night. We know what they can do, even if on that particular night they have not done it. This is Joe Crawford: fan favorite.
So how does a player who walked out on his team mid-season, who has been slow to show consistency and has well…been slow period, still garner so much adoration? Well we know the guy can ball. His high school stats aside, Crawford has shown UK fans the full scope of his nastiness through random peepholes. Whether it be the Azubuike-like dunk against Louisville, clutch post-season play or that NBA-like mid-range game, Crawford has yet to string together an assemblage of dominant performances. This year that will change. Besides late-night Taco Bell runs, Crawford has also been doomed by head games. His confusion and timidity in Tubby’s offense has been evident from Day 1, although it did improve quite a bit last season. Now Crawford is finally comfortable and you can see that not only on the court, but off the court as well. He has finally become adjusted to his pseudo-celebrity athlete role and to Tubby’s system. Sharing the backcourt with his soulmate Smooth (the two are practically inseperable), Crawford’s transition back to his natural position will prove to be the prescription for his inconsistent dominance. Will this year be the time that Crawford carves his way into UK lore? I think so, and this time finally, so does Joe.