BYU basketball: Why 4-star guard Elijah Crawford may exceed his lofty expectation

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PROVO — Not all stats are created equal, though the numbers put up by recent BYU commitment Elijah Crawford for prestigious Brewster Academy largely speak for themselves.

Brewster sends several athletes to the highest ranks of collegiate basketball yearly, which enhances any player's stats considerably. So consider Crawford's final year, which saw him average 14 points and five assists to go along with shooting 53% from the field, 49% from 3-point range and 83% from the free-throw line, and it's abundantly clear the Cougars are acquiring a special talent.

We recently interviewed Brewster Academy coach Jason Smith on ESPN 960, who spoke glowingly of Crawford after coaching him through his basketball program, where Crawford largely exceeded his initial lofty expectations.

Crawford is a 6-foot-2 guard prospect who recently signed with BYU after previously signing with Stanford upon completion of his standout prep career where he compiled impressive stats on top of providing invaluable leadership for Smith's program.

"He really stepped up as a scoring option," Smith said. "We had multiple starters miss extended periods of time due to injury this past year … and each time somebody went out of the lineup with injury Elijah would step up and provide whatever was needed — whether it was scoring punch or intensity on the defensive end."

High character

When asked about Crawford's attributes, Smith didn't immediately regale his athletic prowess in favor of talking about Crawford on a personal level. The point guard is originally from Augusta, Georgia, and made a home and a strong impact almost immediately upon arrival at Brewster, which is a private academy located in Connecticut.

"He was a great young man to have in our community," Smith said. "He's a spectacular student (who has) a near 4.0 (grade point average). He's a leader who was voted captain by his peers his first year at Brewster, which is remarkable. … So he's a very talented player, but he's more importantly a great person that people in the BYU community will be proud to have."

The best way to lead is often by actions rather than by words, which is a strength Crawford possesses, according to Smith.

"He led more by example than anything," Smith said. "He's not really outspoken or demonstrative with his behavior. … I think his peers took notice of that, and that's why they wanted him to be our captain this year, and he did a fantastic job."

Athletic attributes

Great character and leadership ability married with superior athletic ability is a tremendous combination, and it's exactly what Crawford will bring to the BYU basketball program when he arrives in Provo this next season.

"He's an exceptional athlete," Smith said. "He can catch lobs, he can throw lobs, and he's a great 3-point shooter. … He was a guy that you wanted the ball in his hands during crunch time because he would make the right decision and make free throws when you were trying to ice the game."

Crawford is also versatile; and even though his stature designates him as a point guard, he can fulfill different roles in running a team from the point as demonstrated this past season for Brewster.

Elijah Crawford, the 6-foot-2 point guard out of Brewster Academy is rated as a four-star recruit from ESPN, 247Sports and On3 and is ranked as the 96th best recruit in the country according to ESPN 100. He is the sixth-highest high school recruit in program history and marks the second ESPN 100 signee under Young, with Crawford joining Brody Kozlowski.
Elijah Crawford, the 6-foot-2 point guard out of Brewster Academy is rated as a four-star recruit from ESPN, 247Sports and On3 and is ranked as the 96th best recruit in the country according to ESPN 100. He is the sixth-highest high school recruit in program history and marks the second ESPN 100 signee under Young, with Crawford joining Brody Kozlowski. (Photo: BYU Photo)

Back to Brewster

Smith has coached his share of top athletes at Brewster, including former Utah Jazz and current Cleveland Cavalier star Donovan Mitchell, along with several others who currently play in the NBA. By virtue of playing with top talent, Crawford's introduction to college basketball won't likely be as much of an adjustment as it would be otherwise.

"The advantage he's going to have over a lot of freshmen is not only the competition that he played against … but playing with other highly-regarded players," Smith said. "I think that's often something that the fans overlook."

While Smith didn't draw comparisons between Crawford and Mitchell, he did compare him with another former Brewster athlete who currently plays in the NBA.

"We've had some really talented point guards during my time here, and Elijah is right there near the top," Smith stated. "He reminds me a lot of a former player who played at Kansas — Devonte Graham, who is now with the San Antonio Spurs in that he can do whatever you want."

Accolades for both Youngs

Throughout his time at Brewster Academy, Smith has developed a strong relationship with BYU coach Kevin Young's brother, Justin Young, who has been heavily involved with basketball recruiting and scouting for a long time and is publisher of Through that connection Smith has acquired a high degree of trust with Justin, and by virtue Kevin, which in no doubt helped aid BYU's acquisition of Crawford.

"I'm excited for Elijah. I'm excited for BYU basketball, and I think they made a tremendous hire," Smith said. "I don't know coach Young personally, but I do know his brother. I've known his brother for over 20 years, so I'm excited for the program, and I'm excited for Elijah."

Why BYU?

We recently interviewed Crawford as well on the program and learned more regarding his decision to flip his collegiate destination from Stanford to BYU. The first and foremost reason is that new BYU assistant coach Brandon Dunson flipped his coaching affiliation from Stanford to BYU just a few weeks before Crawford made a similar decision.

"He was a huge reason," Crawford said. "He's the one who recruited me (to Stanford). ... So we already had a great relationship.

"So I just feel like he's a real guy and he's not someone who is going to lie to me. He's going to give me the real (truth), and we just built that strong and genuine connection over time."

Crawford also believes the Cougars, under the direction of Young, will prepare him as well as any program in the country for the next level.

"I think the offense will be great," Crawford said. "I think that it will be more of a spread — NBA-type offense being coached by some of the guys who have coached at the highest level. It doesn't get any better than that. I feel as if Coach Young will put me in a position to win because he's been there. … He's worked with the best guys and his resume is unbelievable."

Criddle's conclusion

BYU Basketball returns three proven collegiate guards in Dallin Hall, Dawson Baker and Trey Stewart. In order for Crawford to see substantial playing time this season, he will have to earn it every day in practice, as I Imagine none of the three above want to give up minutes to the new kid on the block.

Is he up for that challenge?

Crawford has a chip on his shoulder, and that's the primary reason why I like his ability to compete immediately for a spot in the rotation. Crawford was rated a 4-star prospect out of high school, but despite his lofty profile, he feels underrated, which will continue to serve him well at the collegiate level.

"I was always one of the top-rated players in the country, but I always thought I was better than that person and wanted to go harder than that person. That's just my competitive spirit," Crawford said.

Regarding his specific recruiting ranking, Crawford does believe it's too low and is out to prove as much upon arriving in Provo. But he certainly won't be resting on his recruiting ranking as validation for what he believes he can be as a player.

"I don't really get into that because I know what I'm going to do, and I know how hard I'm going to work to get where I want to get," Crawford said.

Mentality plays a huge factor in competitive sports, and I believe, through my conversations with Crawford, along with what he's already proven at the prep level, that he could very well make even a stronger impact than anticipated.

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Ben Criddle


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