UK's Crawford continues to adjust

November 18, 2004|ASHLEY DAVIES

LEXINGTON - Take a few servings of competitive spirit, a healthy dose of will to win, and let it marinate in a town of Detroit Pistons basketball known for its no-nonsense defense and you end up with highly recruited Kentucky freshman guard Joe Crawford.

"He's the most mature freshman as far as his knowledge of the game de-fensively," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "You can see his athleticism in the way he can pop up off of the floor."

But this transition hasn't been as smooth as Crawford and Smith would like. In two exhibition games, Crawford has had ample playing time averaging 19 minutes per game. However, he was 0-for-4 from beyond the 3-point arc and 4-for-8 overall from the field with four personal fouls in his UK debut.

"I was glad to see Joe Crawford shoot and score better," Smith said after UK's exhibition win over Kentucky Wesleyan last week. "Although he's not making his jump shot very well right now, he will."


One main thing Crawford has to change is the physicality of his play. "(Smith's) defensive principles differ from how I played in high school," said Crawford. "I'm not allowed to be as physical on defense."

Crawford has yet to hit a shot from 3-point range, but he was 5-for-8 from field overall and 2-for-2 at the foul line against Wesleyan.

"All the shots looked good when they left his hand," Smith said.

Lights out dunk

Crawford must have looked great to Smith after literally dunking the lights out in the second half against Kentucky Wesleyan. The dunk was so powerful that it knocked out the lights on the shot clock in front of cheering UK students.

"I'm still learning," said Crawford. "I would like to progress a little faster. I feel like I can play better than what I have, but I am getting there."

Guard Rajon Rondo, another member of the highly-touted freshman class, knows Crawford has what it takes to make it in Big Blue country.

"He's an excellent player," Rondo said. "We all know what he can do."

As for Crawford's inspirations on the court, Rondo believes it's all about number 23, and he doesn't mean LeBron James. "He loves (Michael) Jordan and tries to imitate everything Jordan does," Rondo said.

But watch your step when it comes to Crawford's Air Jordan tennis shoes.

"He's real defensive about his Jordans," Rondo warned. "If anyone steps on them, he gets really mad."

Crawford will make his official debut Saturday when the Wildcats host Coppin State at 4 p.m.

Ashley Davies is a junior at the University of Kentucky interested in a career in journalism, broadcasting or photograph.

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