Written by: Eric Jackson
Jalen Crawford slides off a down screen to find some wiggle room in the corner of the floor during practice. After inhaling a crisp pass from one of his new teammates, Jalen doesn’t hesitate.
At the peak of his leap the ball releases off his fingertips almost picturesquely- he assuredly stares at the ball in mid-air as it sails toward the rim.
That’s what the Crawford brothers call playing “unconscious”.
The trigger- happy offensive method was authenticated by three boys from the Westside of Detroit.
“You see a shot you like and you take it. You see a good pass you take it, and you don’t think about it. If it doesn’t go how you planned [then] move on to the next play,” Crawford said.
The Bradley University transfer is grateful to find another route on his quest to be the final Crawford to play professional basketball.�
Jalen is trying to iron out a few more wrinkles in his game before the season starts Monday night.
There’s no doubt that his tenacious work ethic derives from his lifelong thirst of reaching the NBA someday like his older brothers Joe and Jordan – but mainly from his beloved passion for the game as he patiently awaits his own destiny.
His destiny perhaps could rest nowhere near a basketball court.
Don’t tell that to him though. Even a steeled barricade can’t stop him from accomplishing his primary goal.
“I’m never going to stop chasing my dream,” Crawford said. “If I play here for two years and don’t get an offer somewhere immediately, I’m going to keep chasing that dream, until I can’t no more. Right now I’m just focusing on my time here in Valdosta.”
Jalen so far is enjoying the southern hospitality he has never experienced – a change of scenery from his previous Peoria, Ill.
“He comes down here and doesn’t have an ego, doesn’t have an attitude,” VSU head coach Mike Helfer said. “He’s treating this like an opportunity; he’s trying to make the most of. He hasn’t played a game yet but you can already tell. As a coach you can tell if a player is getting it or not. He gets everything. I don’t even have to finish my sentence.”
Jalen arrives to South Georgia with plenty critics to match his supporters – the same folk who consider him a disappointment, the ones who can’t accept that he’s not going to miraculously wake up with his brother Jordan’s uncanny scoring ability or Joe’s paralyzing crossover.
This notion is outright unfair – unfair being an understatement.�
There are no bones to be made about Jalen coming from a basketball family.
The Crawford boys first drew attention in the bustling neighborhoods of the Motor City, where numerous distinguished ballers first got their start.
A city so nourished by the sport that its dwellers were excited to elect mayor and former Detroit Piston great Dave Bing in 2009.
Ironically, the brothers’ mother and biggest supporter, Silvia, is a former publicist for the city who worked under the Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
Joseph Sr and Silvia Crawford’s first son of the trio was Joe Crawford II.
The former standout at Kentucky went on to play in the NBA with brief stints with the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks.
The swingman has recently played overseas for the Beijing Ducks and Maccabi Rishon.
Joe, 27, garnered McDonalds All-American honors at Renaissance High School before graduating in 2004.
Meanwhile, three miles north, middle brother Jordan starred at neighboring magnet school, Detroit’s Communication and Media Arts School, where he too electrified crowds night in and night out.
Jordan attended prep school, Hargrave Military Academy, following high school.
While Joe’s NBA career was struggling to blossom, Jordan became the most popular of his brothers once he transferred to Xavier in 2008 from Indiana.
The former first round draft pick generated national attention the following summer of 2009 when a video featuring Crawford dunking on LeBron James at a Nike mini-camp surfaced.
Rumors stating that the recorded videos of the action were confiscated by Nike under the request of James added to the significance of the account.
Jordan currently plays for the Boston Celtics.�
If you need any greater example of the kind of confidence this family breeds, Jordan made headlines once after publicly claiming that he was a better baller than Michael Jordan.
The statement was so blasphemous that Jalen seconded it then declared himself better than MJ too.
“When you come from where we come from, nobody is better than you. You never let someone say they better than you,” Crawford said.
“JC” as his friends tagged him with, was born July 2., 1992, and he says it feels like yesterday when he reminisces on his earliest basketball memories.
The communications major says balling with his brothers in the harshest conditions, where fights and disputes were common, was a major reason behind his aggressive style.
Joe and Jordan were the typical bully big brothers that refused to let baby brother win – at any cost.
Nowadays, Jalen is sending his game tapes back and forth to his siblings for constructive criticism.
“They’re three peas in a pod,” Dave Amata, Director of Basketball Operations at Impact Academy, said. “They’re always joking with each other. They’re always looking out for each other and giving each other advice. If Jordan or Joe have any opportunity to be around Jalen, they’re going to be at his game.”
The transfer’s career began 15 minutes north of the Detroit River at Oak Park High School, where he displayed raw talent his brothers refined – he averaged 21 points a night his senior year. �
Three year varsity lettermen for the Knights, Crawford followed Jordan’s prep school route and attended Impact Academy (Las Vegas) after high school for a shot at more exposure.
He finds his time in Sin City to be an essential step that “molded” him into the player he is today – from getting into the finest shape to tightening up his handle in transition.
Crawford subsequently took his skills to BU over TCU, Pepperdine, Providence, and Northeastern with confidence of eventually being the program’s cornerstone.
The twenty-one year old played in 65 games for the Braves as reserve role player in two seasons.
Tired of riding the pine, the junior guard decided to go somewhere he could showcase.
Despite things never panning out the way he wished at BU, the 6’2’’ combo guard truly believes he has found a home under coach Helfer.
“I was getting the college basketball experience at Bradley, but not playing is not the same,” Crawford said. “I’ve always wanted to be in those late game situations and being a key player to the team. At Bradley I wasn’t getting what I’ve always dream of.”
Jalen can dream again.
He may not be as gifted as his brothers.
But guess what? He’s perfectly comfortable with that.
Regardless of what happens in two years or twenty, the brotherly trio will forever flock together.
Anyone who knows the close-knit family will agree that the clan could never stamp Jalen as a black sheep – they love him too much for that nonsense.