Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Crawford Is Evolving for Billikens

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Crawford Is Evolving for Billikens

Article excerpt

Mike Crawford's sophomore season was accompanied by a large dose of personal adversity that never allowed the St. Louis University guard to completely focus on basketball.

He spent the first month battling an unknown illness that cut his weight by 10 pounds and drained him of energy. Soon after recovering, he returned home to Indiana when his great-grandmother died. A month later his grandfather passed away.

"That took a long time to get over," Crawford said. "My grandfather meant a lot to me. Then late in the season I started feeling more comfortable with everything. But the season was really choppy."

Crawford's grandfather frequently took him on golf outings. And as a high schooler, Crawford would visit his grandparents after school and eat dinner at their house before going home for the night.

As he enters his junior season, Crawford is feeling much better about things both individually and for the team.

He came off the bench last season and was SLU's third-leading scorer, averaging 7.3 points. He was the most accurate shooter among the guards, hitting 46.4 percent of his shots. He was one of the few Billikens who could be counted on from the free-throw line.

Yet, for all of his offensive potential, he has spent the past year emphasizing defense in an attempt to make his game more well- rounded. A stronger game without the external distractions could make Crawford a key piece for the Billikens.

"I feel a lot better and the team's more mature than last year," he said. "Last year at the beginning, it was rough. This year it's better because everyone understands things a lot better. I'm the third oldest on the team now, so it's kind of different. I'm more into teaching mode now. I feel I pick up the new offense and defense faster than the younger guys just because I've been through two preseasons."

A player who arrived as a weak defender is helping the newcomers with their transition. That's because Crawford has placed so much emphasis on improving that part of his game.

He spends time before and after practice working on technique. During the summer he went to the gym after class at around 10 p.m. and spent several nights a week working on lane line slides and closeouts. …

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