Falcon hoop dreams

Erik Cassano and Erik Cassano

For those Rudys of the world who dreamed their whole life of playing college sports, who would have put their left eye out with a rusty screwdriver just to play Division III badminton, exercise some caution before reading on.

Erik Crawford, a freshman guard/forward on the Bowling Green basketball team, took a pass on playing college football at a Big Ten school.

Crawford, an all-state wide receiver in Minnesota, was courted by Minnesota and Wisconsin for football before deciding he wanted to play basketball for a smaller school.

“I just like it (basketball) more,” Crawford said. “There’s more action. Football is one play then a 30-second break. Basketball is one smooth movement.”

No basketball program took a recruiting interest in the former Minnesota State defensive player of the year for fear of losing him to football, so he had to find his own school. He paid his own way to Bowling Green to watch them play Marshall in February.

“His mother and he flew here on their own expense,” BG coach Dan Dakich said. “His mom fell in love with the campus, the kid fell in love with the place, and they committed.”

Crawford is part of a four-man freshman class for Dakich, and, at least in the early going, has had the most impact during games. He scored nine points in last week’s win over Michigan, and has already made his presence known at the defensive end of the floor, so much so that he?s drawing high praise from Dakich less than halfway through his first year in the program.

“Erik really makes us a better team defensively,” Dakich said. “He might be the smartest freshman we’ve had here at the defensive end, he may be one of the two or three smartest freshman I?ve ever coached. He really knows how to play.”

Crawford said he likes to play defense first, likes the challenge of defending a tough player. With the likes of Tamar Slay, David Webber and Trevor Huffman awaiting in the conference schedule, Crawford will get ample testing as a defender in the coming months. That might not be the biggest test, however.

Freshman fatigue sets in quickly, especially in a physically grueling sport like basketball. Crawford, conditioned to play the 20-plus games of a high school schedule, is already eight games into his first collegiate season, including exhibitions. It started to show at the end of the Marist game Saturday.

“I thought Erik got really tired,” Dakich said. “This is a grind. He’s already into his fourth month of playing.”

Among the teammates that have been helping Crawford adjust have been, according to him, senior Keith McLeod.

“Keith has helped me almost everyday in practice, on the offensive and defensive end,” Crawford said.

So what about the future?

“Each year, I just want to get better, improve physically, improve everything,” he said.”I want to be a better person. The seniors we have, are really good people this year.”

McLeod said that when he is done, he wants to be remembered first as a good teammate. Intelligent on the floor and attentive to those above him, he appears to be on the right track.