2010-11 Season Key Players - Drew Crawford, Northwestern

This is the fourth in a series of five posts previewing five players that are going to be keys to the 2010-11 college basketball season in Chicago. (One for each school.) These profiles aren't necessarily about the best player, but a player I expect will make a meaningful impact this season.

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 11: Guard Drew Crawford #1 of the Northwestern Wildcats drives with the ball against the Indiana Hoosiers during the first round of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 11, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Not considered a top recruit by any service, Drew Crawford was a revelation in his freshman season at Northwestern. He was the media's choice for the Big Ten Conference's Freshman of the Year and averaged 10.7 points per game during his freshman season.

He had some great games, but was also inconsistent. In his sophomore season Crawford is going to need to harness the good parts of his game, while becoming more assertive during conference play in order to be the player the Wildcats need him to become. 
Players are supposed to take a "leap" between their freshman and sophomore seasons and the question becomes, how much better is Crawford going to be? He was already a very good player on offense during his freshman season. Can he become an elite player in his second?

Key Stats (2009-10): 107.5 Offensive Rating, 20.7 percent possessions, 15 percent assist rate, 16.6 percent turnover rate, 7.7 offensive rebounding rate, 11.8 percent defensive rebounding rate, 54.3 percent effective field goal percentage.

As a recruit Crawford was known as a smart player and a good shooter. He has an NBA referee for a father, so services were sure his knowledge would translate well from high school to the collegiate level. That's exactly what happened. Crawford adapted quickly and did a good job picking his spots early last season and still being aggressive inside of the Princeton Offense. There were nights, like his 8-13 from three, 35 points performance against North Carolina A&T and a 25-point game against Michigan, where it was obvious he was in complete control.
Unfortunately, in the second half of the season Crawford's production waned. After going for 18 points in a victory over Minnesota on February 2 he went over a month before scoring in double-figures again. While he battled injuries during almost all of that time, it seemed like he hit a bit of a "freshman wall" as well. 
Thankfully, freshman turn into sophomores and now Crawford has had an entire off season to spend training in a collegiate program. The improvements to his game according to observers are numerous. He's rumored to have become so confident in his handle that Bill Carmody is considering playing him a bit at point guard. Crawford's care of the basketball last season seems to suggest that he'd do well in at least helping the Wildcats minimizing mistakes when Juice Thompson isn't on the court.
But the point position isn't where Crawford is going to make his impact. This season the Wildcats need to see more of him going to the basket. Crawford's numbers dropped in the second half of Big Ten play when team's started "figuring him out." Opponents limited his touches as injuries limited his burst, and his effectiveness declined. Crawford can't let that happen this season.
While I'm at it, the other wish I have for Crawford is that he shows more aggression going to the boards this season. 6'5 wing players shouldn't be averaging 4.3 boards per game. He needs to get that number up into the six or seven range. That would make a big impact defensively for the Wildcats as well.
Last season Crawford was one of the Big Ten's best newcomers. This season Crawford should strive to be on the Big Ten's best players period. He has the ability to do it and if he takes that jump the Wildcats could be dancing come March.

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