Dantaveous Crawford averages 14 rebounds and almost 27 points per game for West Okibbeha. (Photo by Jason Edwards, SDN)
Basketball is a family affair when it comes to West Oktibbehaâ€™s coach and premier athlete.
For Dantaveous Crawford and his coach Danny Crawford, who also happens to be his uncle, basketball runs deep, so deep that the pair made a pact to only discuss the game when inside the gym.
â€ś(In) his first year, it was crazy cause it was always basketball, basketball, basketball,â€ť Danny Crawford said. â€śEven when we would go scout a game, all we talked about was basketball, then we brought in my assistant coach, who is my uncle and Dantaveousâ€™ great uncle. It is always basketball for us.
â€śIt got to the point that me and Dantaveous made a vow when we were at home on the weekends, at Sunday barbecues or whatever we were doing as a family, we wouldnâ€™t talk about basketball. I donâ€™t bring it up unless he brings it up to me, because I believe too much of anything is bad for you. We just made a pact and it has really worked because it keeps him focused in the gym. It allows him to enjoy other things when we arenâ€™t on the court.â€ť
While many would find the pressure of playing for family and always being surrounded by basketball a bit too much, Dantaveous Crawford thrives.
â€śWe take basketball serious in our family and I come from a long line of basketball players,â€ť Dantaveous Crawford said. â€śI probably get it worse than anyone on the team, but I like it. (It's) probably because I have been dealing with it for so long. They always see something I do wrong on the court, so I am able to work on things I would not otherwise notice.â€ť
It seems that feedback is working. This year alone, Dantaveous Crawford is averaging almost 27 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks per game, leading his uncle to refer to him as a â€śdiamond in the rough.â€ť
Seeing his nephewâ€™s talent shortened due to sanctions placed on the Timberwolves is frustrating, but the coach understands the rules and knows that no matter what, Dantaveous Crawford will be successful.
â€śIt is frustrating at times,â€ť Danny Crawford said. â€śWe havenâ€™t played a game since Jan. 8, and that is frustrating for him as a competitor.
â€śWhen I was playing ball if I brought home a D or something, my mom took us off the team or my dad wouldnâ€™t let us play, in this situation, the Mississippi Department of Education is the one playing mom and dad. Itâ€™s rough on a high profile athlete like Dantaveous to have his season cut short, to take a team that is 11-1 and ranked No. 3 in Class A in Mississippi, and we canâ€™t compete in the playoffs, is very frustrating.
Personally, I hate it for him because of the caliber player he is, but Dantaveous will be OK, he has a bright future ahead of him.â€ť
Many players would have taken the easy way out and transferred schools when they learned of the sanctions, but the younger Crawford decided to stay with his teammates and the West Oktibbeha community.
â€śI like it here a lot,â€ť Dantaveous Crawford said. â€śI liked it when I moved here and wanted to stick with it. Weâ€™ve been here for a long time and have gelled together as a team, so I wanted to stay here to finish my career and go out a winner with my teammates.â€ť
Looking passed this season, Dantaveous Crawford plans certainly include playing basketball on a higher level, but the senior has more than just time on the hard wood in his plans.
â€śI want to go to college and get a degree in either business management or education,â€ť the younger Crawford said. â€śI would like to come back to teach and maybe even be a head coach.â€ť
It appears Dantaveous Crawford will have plenty of opportunities to pursue both of his goals as the senior is being recruited by almost all of stateâ€™s junior colleges as well as a few Division I schools.
While he is certainly looking ahead, for now Dantaveous Crawford is simply enjoying his senior year and doing what he needs to do to help his team win the remainder of its ballgames.
â€śIâ€™ve come so far,â€ť the Timberwolves player said. â€śIâ€™ve been waiting to get here for a long time and Iâ€™m finally here. Iâ€™m enjoying it so far, just focusing on playing hard and helping my teammates win ballgames.
Like (Michael) Jordan had (Scottie) Pippen, I want to be there when they need me in order to help them win.â€ť
Itâ€™s funny that Dantaveous Crawford compares himself to Pippen, because ask his coach who his game most resembles and Pippenâ€™s name is the first to come out.
â€śI was talking to another coach and he asked me who Dantaveous reminded me of," coach Crawford said. "I quickly said Scottie Pippen. They are an offensive threat all the time, but where their game is so similar is in defensive intensity. Dantaveous is just active, always up on you, (and) swatting and blocking shots.
When I look at the young version of Pippen from when I was growing up watching him, (Larry) Bird and Magic (Johnson), Dantaveous is so similar to that.â€ť
Danny Crawford may have grown up watching the greats play, however he also got the chance to watch his nephew grow, improve and develop into the young man he is today.
For that chance, the coach is grateful, but he is quick to point out he can not take all the credit for the young starâ€™s talent.
â€śDantaveous has meant everything to my program,â€ť coach Crawford said. â€śHe has developed and got better every year in every aspect of the game and while I coach Dantaveous, I give my assistant coach Oliver Johnson and God the credit for his talent. He had this kid in the backyard from 7-years-old dribbling and running drills. I am fortunate to coach him now, but coach Johnson get all the praise for developing his game.â€ť
The Timberwolves have only three games remaining this season and you can bet Dantaveous Crawford will be on the court developing his game and fulfilling that longing that comes from the love of basketball running so deep in his veins.
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