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TIPTON’S MIKE CRAWFORD: ‘SON OF A GUN IS MR. BASKETBALL’

Front Cover - Vol 3 No 14 - March 19, 2013 (Mike Crawford)

THE DEAN’S LIST BY DEAN HOCKNEY

Sports Journal Publisher

Today is the day that Indiana coaches and media members begin the vote for Mr. Basketball, and this year, I will announce my Mr. Basketball vote to the entire state – I am voting for Tipton’s Mike Crawford. According to the Indianapolis Star, the race for the crown is down to Crawford, Zak Irvin of Hamilton Southeast, Demetrius Jackson of Mishawaka Marian and Bryson Scott of Fort Wayne Northrop. How cool would it be to see a central Indiana kid win the coveted No. 1 jersey.

A case could be made for any of the four frontrunners, but in my mind, if one looks at the complete athlete and person, then the race belongs to Crawford. For one, he led his team to three consecutive Class 2A Final Fours. Of the other three frontrunners, only Scott led his team to a sectional title this season.

Second, according to Tipton coach Brad Dickey, Crawford – a 2012 Indiana Junior All-Star – is a first-class citizen who does things the right way. When asked to sum up Crawford for voters across Indiana, Dickey said, “92 wins and a 4.2 grade point average. The son of a gun is Mr. Basketball. I know there are great players all over the state again this year, but there is no better story than Mike.”

I have had the chance to watch Crawford in action for the last three years. One of the knocks against the 6-foot-5 St. Louis University recruit is he comes from a small Class 2A program. Well, don’t tell that to Class 4A Westfield who lost to Tipton 73-71. Or 4A Connersville, a 54-50 victim of Crawford and the Devils. And scoring 40 points in two consecutive Final Four games is something that only a special player can accomplish, no matter what class they are playing in.

And then there was that memorable Jan. 19 evening in Tipton when the then third-ranked Blue Devils knocked off Class 4A No. 8 Kokomo. The Kats lost 57-56 in overtime, but it was the 35-point performance by Crawford that many will remember. He drained 11 of 22 shots, and when it came down to simple fundamental basketball, he hit 10 of 11 free throw attempts. The year before he scored 30 in a loss to Kokomo. Those numbers are courtesy of something Dickey says comes with hard work.

“I don’t think I will ever appreciate how hard he has worked or the extra hours he has put in,” said Dickey. “He is always so good about playing in the gym and getting into the weight room. You couldn’t even add it all up; calculators aren’t big enough to figure how much time and effort he has put into this.”

Crawford will leave Tipton with 2,104 career points – tops on the Tipton list. And when it comes to great Blue Devils, the alumni list includes Big Ten players Matt Waddell (Purdue), Kreigh Smith (Indiana) and current Hoosier Derek Elston. The 2,104 career points sandwiches him between Andrean’s Shane Power and Michigan City Roger’s Dan Palombizio for 27th all-time in the Hoosier state, 12 points short of catching the legendary Steve Alford.

But more importantly than gaudy scoring (he averaged 27 points per game this year), he is a leader and a true student-athlete. His senior class has a record of 92 wins and 14 losses, with three sectional and regional championships. The 92 wins are the best by a senior class in school history while only the Class of 1936 has more sectional titles with four. And the 25 wins this year are also a team record. In the classroom, the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Academic First Team selection is currently on pace to serve as the Tipton High School Class of 2013 salutatorian.

“We are hopeful that we will have another one like him, but history shows that is not possible,” said Dickey. “He is the real deal, and he is going to be missed. Mike is an extraordinary kid.”

An extraordinary kid indeed. And who knows, he might just be wearing the No. 1 jersey this summer when the Indiana All-Stars take the floor against the best from Kentucky. As I said, he has my vote. I like Mike!

Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.

Dean Hockney is the owner/publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana, sports editor of the Kokomo Herald and public address voice of IU Kokomo athletics. His column can be found each week on the last page of the Sports Journal. You can follow Hockney on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) to stay up-to-date on sports happenings in Howard County and around Indiana.