photo by Mark Cornelison
Thanks for showing a replay, ESPN
From an outsider’s perspective, the early months of the Billy G/Joe C marriage appeared destined for an irreconcilable wasteland. The player: an oft-maligned, oft-enigmatic prep sensation with one near-transfer on his resume and three seasons of inconsistent promise. The coach: a no-apologies hard ass wired to win, feelings be damned.
As if the earnestness of losing your coach–your comfort–before your senior season weren’t enough to overcome, it was evident from the start that Gillispie was not interested in easing his system onto the players. The signs of discontent between the two were blatant, middle-school-esque, and seemingly detrimental. Already plagued by career disappointments Joe Crawford now found himself on the bench, watching as the likes of Michael Porter, Ramon Harris, and Mark Coury fumbled and stumbled through their best Division I impression. It was not good, nor was the record, nor was Crawford’s hope of resurrecting his career with a grand exit.
They fought. They argued. They played games. Hell, they probably spoke to each other through notes delivered by Dusty Mills (what, you didn’t think he had a role?).
watching Porter guard Vaden today really hurt my feelings. This is my last chance to prove something, to win. What’s the deal? I’m too good to be on the bench.
go f*&! yourself.
ps: you guard like a leper
Honestly, it would be hard to blame Joe completely for mailing it in this season. Injuries and years of mashing the recruiting snooze button has left the Senior with zero hope of ever finding the glory likely promised to him when he signed on for this thing. Not to mention a new coach, with new standards, expectations, and motivational tools; such as the bench, and gossip hungry reporters. Oh yeah, and being upstaged by your pip-squeak brother does little to help. And why play for us fans? All we do is complain about the head-down dribbling and that the name on the back of his jersey just maybe could have read “Lofton.”
After watching Crawford for 50 minutes last Saturday, 40 last night, fighting for every shot and each loose ball as if it were emblazoned with a Final 4 logo, I’ve learned a lot about the kid I used to feel bad for. The kid not named Chris Lofton, the kid who probably didn’t think he’d need a Senior year of college. But boy, did he need it. If not to show some NBA scouts he might indeed be worth a tryout, then to show us fans that he wants it, and he’s worth it. Likewise, Gillispie needed Joe for substantiation. That his hardened approach to developing players is, and will, work. Seeing the two walk off the court arm and arm last weekend, a victory finally in hand, it seems this marriage just might have a shot after all.
So he’s not Chris Lofton. In fact, he’s averaging more points per game, has a better 3pt and FG %, and is playing better defense. And maybe he still dribbles with his head down, but who‘s he going to pass it to? Perhaps he does it to imagine he’s finally leading his team to glory.