Senior forward Drew Crawford comes into the 2013-14 season after having surgery on a torn labrum 10 games into last year's regular season. He hopes to get back into the form that made him an All-Big Ten Third Team selection in his junior year. He talked to North by Northwestern about his recovery and his hopes for the season.
You were lost for the year last year with a labrum injury. How are you bouncing back? How are you feeling?
It was about a five-month recovery for me, so five months after surgery, that’s when I started playing again, and it took me a while to get my legs back, get my rhythm back. But now that I’ve been able to do that, it’s just kind of adjusting to the new system and getting back used to playing with my teammates again. So, it was a tough transition at first just because I hadn’t played for five months, but once I was able to get back on the court, get my rhythm back, it started going really well.
Are there any noticeable differences between how it feels now and how it did at the beginning of last season? Does it feel 100 percent? How does it feel?
Yeah, I’m feeling great. I’m close to 100 percent. [The doctor] did a great job with the surgery, and the NU athletic training staff helped me big time with my rehab, and I worked hard to get back, and I’m feeling great now.
How is Coach Collins transitioning here? How are players reacting to him?
Great. Coach Collins has brought a great energy to the team, to the program, to the school. Our team is really eager to play for him. We trust him, and we’re willing to work hard for him.
What do you think are the most significant differences between Collins and [former] Coach [Bill] Carmody?
Every coach has his own style. A couple things that stick out with Coach Collins is just his hunger, especially during practice. He’s really willing to get involved and motivate guys and really get us going.
Did his coming here affect your decision to come back in any way?
Yeah. Definitely, definitely. When I kind of was going through that whole process, I was really happy to hear that Coach Collins was hired here, because I knew his track record, I knew he’s got unbelievable basketball experience, so I was happy to come back and meet with him, and I just loved everything that he had to say. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to come back here to Northwestern.
As one of the two team captains, how are you using your experience to help the other younger players on the team out?
I think the biggest thing is just trying to bring the best work ethic every day, and showing these young guys what it takes to be a successful team. I’ve learned a lot from Coach Collins and I’m trying to kind of take everything that he’s taught me and embody that on the court so I can lead these guys.
What kind of responsibilities do you have as a captain?
I think the biggest thing is to be the hardest worker, making sure that I’m working hard and also performing in practice and the games every day. And then also being vocal, just making sure my teammates always hear my voice, always know that they can be comfortable when I’m around and I’m playing.
What do you think the identity of this year’s team is going to be?
I think our identity is going to be just an extremely hard-working group. I think we’re going to be a blue-collar type team. We’ve got talent, but we’re also a really hard working group, so I think that’s going to be the biggest thing for us is every night we have to work harder than other teams. I think that’s something we hang our hat on, that and how we play defense.
Are there any differences in practice on a day-to-day level between this year and last year with Coach Collins and Coach Carmody to kind of embody that blue-collar spirit?
Some of the things that we do this year is we’re heavily defensive focused in a lot of our practices. That’s really going back to defensive basics, learning our team principles and then making sure that we’re applying them and giving full effort every day.
Have you looked at the schedule at all? Is there a specific game you’re really looking forward to?
Right now, I’m looking forward to the first one, which is Lewis, the exhibition game. And we’ll take it from there. After that one, I’ll be looking forward to Eastern Illinois. So we’re taking it one game at a time. I’m just looking forward to what’s upcoming.
What makes this team different from past years?
I think we’re a pretty young team for the most part. Outside of JerShon [Cobb], James [Montgomery III], Niko [Cerina], and myself, I think we’re a relatively young team. I think that’s a pretty good thing because we’ve got a lot of guys who are eager to show what they can do. I think we are coming in with a little bit of a different mentality just because of the system that Coach Collins has put in. I think that blue-collar attitude is really going to stick out this year for us.
If you had to choose one younger player that’s poised for a breakout season, whom do you think you would choose?
That’s tough because there’s a few guys that really stick out in my head. That’s Alex Olah, who had a tremendous offseason and has been working really hard this preseason, Sanjay [Lumpkin], who’s done a great job playing his role, really working hard every day and Nate Taphorn, who is coming in as a freshman. You can tell [Nate] really knows how to play the game. So I think those guys all, it’s been great to see what they’ve been doing this year.
What do you think this team needs to do to make it to the tournament?
The things we can control on the court, we need to really take care of. Those things being we have to give maximum effort, we have to work harder than the other team, and I think we have to be in the best shape of any other team. We really need to make sure we are embodying really working hard and completely buying in to what the coaches are telling us, because they all have tremendous experience and know what they are doing.