By Paul M. Banks
Northwestern’s third-leading scorer is freshman phenom Drew Crawford; son of NBA referee Dan Crawford. I recently had an in-depth discussion with both of members of this talented basketball family. Part one features the father.
“Drew needs to be assertive a lot more because I think this team needs it. the Big Ten is a tough conference and you just have to play with that intensity all the time,” that’s what Dan Crawford believes his son Drew must do to take his game to the next level and help his Northwestern Wildcat teammates be all they can be.
And Dan knows a thing or two about basketball. He’s spent as much time involved with the game as anyone. Crawford has been an NBA referee since 1984-85. Taking the stats as far back as I can, beginning with the 2006-07 NBA season, Crawford has officiated in 1,425 regular season, 191 playoff, 18 Finals games and two All-Star Games.
“To gain mental toughness in a competitive environment, you just have to show heart. When they knock you down you gotta get up, not only get up but not be pinned down. And it’s something that’s hard to teach. You actually have to live it, when you grow up in the city- you learn that toughness. It’s really tough to teach it,” said Crawford a city of Chicago native.
Crawford’s mental toughness helped him forge a career that has seen him honored for his athletic achievements in the Illinois and Chicago Public School Halls of Fame.
A 1976 graduate of Northeastern Illinois University, Crawford’s officiating experience also includes 12 years of high school basketball, eight years of collegiate officiating experience in the Missouri Valley Conference and four years in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA).
He now lives in Naperville where his son, Drew played basketball at Naperville Central High School. Dan played ball in college, so we asked him who wins if he were to play his son one on one?
As you can imagine, some NBA ballers probably get a kick out of the fact that one of the men officiating them once played the game himself. “A few players know that , and they laugh at it, but I played small college basketball at Northeastern. I was a guard, but I thought I was a forward, I used to go down low and battle with the best of them,” Crawford said.
But what about his son Drew? How did he get to where he is today?
“He had quite a few offers (Wake Forest, DePaul, Oklahoma State, Rice, Bradley, Drake, Ball St, George Washington) after his junior year. He had an outstanding year of summer AAU basketball and Drew went from zero offers to probably over 20,” Dan said.
So what was it that made Northwestern the ultimate destination? “(Assistant Coach) Tavaras Hardy, gets a lot of credit for that. He used to play for Tavaras in AAU in 7th and 8th grade, so he had this bond with Tavaras and it played a major role in Drew’s decision making, the ace card. I wanted to pursue other options, I would have liked to see Drew in a quicker pace, up and down. That was my desire to see him: in an up and down kind of game and show his athleticism. But what I’m finding though in this offense- there’s opportunities for that. Drew is finding his way, and I’m actually pretty happy we made the Northwestern decision,” Dan said.
And of course, the situation gives Dan many opportunities to see his son play. “Almost like at Naperville, I can hop off the plane and go watch him. We looked at Stanford and I’m so glad we didn’t make that decision because I probably would have seen him play maybe 2 times a year and this is the best case scenario,” Crawford stated.