- Tom Archdeacon Staff Writer
“It’s not personal.”
That’s the way University of Dayton coach Anthony Grant described changing point guards early in Wednesday night’s 73-60 loss to Auburn at UD Arena.
At the 15:07 mark of the first half – with his Flyers already down 11-2 – Grant sat junior point guard John Crosby on the bench and inserted freshman Jalen Crutcher into the lineup.
After that UD went on a 13-0 run and led 15-11.
But the euphoria soon faded.
The Flyers quickly lost the advantage and would never lead again. Yet, one thing from that brief upturn of fortune likely won’t disappear.
Crutcher will continue to see more and more minutes at the position if he hasn’t already laid claim to the starting job.
Wednesday night Crutcher played 34 minutes and Crosby played just eight.
It would have been seven, but Crosby was sent into the game – the only time he saw the court in the second half – with 38 seconds left when Crutcher fouled out.
“It was nothing other than a coaching decision (in) making that change,” Grant said after the game. “As a coach I have to make a decision in terms of what you feel gives your team its best chance of winning.
“If you look at the box score, we had a tough time sustaining offense in the first half. Their zone gave us problems. I felt Jalen was more of a scoring threat for us. I felt we would get a little more movement (with him).”
Against the Tigers, Crutcher had 15 points, six rebounds, two assists and one turnover.
“Jalen can play,” said sophomore guard Trey Landers. “Tonight, this was big for him – him being a freshman and being in a big game like this and being able to handle it well and not panicking.
“He is a really good point guard and he’s going to continue to get better and better.”
Senior guard Darrell Davis – while noting Crutcher did have some assignment errors in the game (as did everybody else, as well) – also offered postgame praise:
“He’s a tough kid out of Memphis. He’s mentally strong, physically strong. He’s creative and he’s going to get better as the games go on.”
For Crosby – who has started all six games for the 3-3 Flyers this season – Wednesday night was another chapter in what has been a roller-coaster career at UD.
His first two seasons here he played in the shadow of Scoochie Smith, one of the most celebrated point guards ever to play for the Flyers and now a pro in Australia.
After averaging 11.2 minutes and 2.6 points a game for those seasons – and often being pilloried by Flyers fans on social media for his sometimes helter-skelter play — the Baltimore native decided to transfer when Grant took over in the spring.
He got his release, but within a month he changed his mind.
After talking to Grant, he asked to come back and the coach reopened the door.
“I feel like it’s worked out perfect with Anthony Grant coming in,” Crosby, who is quite likable, told me at the time. “Right now I think I’m with a team and a coach and a coaching staff that believes in me. And that makes the sky the limit. I really think I haven’t scratched the surface yet and that the best is yet to come. “
That’s what Grant was hoping for, too.
At point guard, all the Flyers had was Crutcher, who had been added to the team late in the recruiting cycle after Grant took over the program following Archie Miller’s exit to Indiana University.
Miller had gotten a commitment from a heralded point guard recruit, McKinley Wright, who ended up turning down the Flyers once Miller left.
Back in the fold, Crosby was given the starting job and had his best outing in the season opener against Ball State. He played 28 minutes, scored 13 points, had six rebounds, four assists and two turnovers
Since then his minutes and points have gone down, meanwhile Crutcher – who is Grant’s first recruit to UD – has been getting more and more time at the point.
Wednesday night’s demotion had to be tough for Crosby, but Crutcher said he got support from him: “He kept telling me to play my game and do what I was doing.”
After the game a couple of the other Flyers players reached out to Crosby.
“I told John, ‘Don’t worry about it,’” Darrell Davis said. “I said, ‘Keep playing, keep practicing hard and one day we’re going to need you out there to make the big play.’”
Landers had an idea how Crosby felt:
“You know it’s tough. But we’re part of a team and when you got somebody else and they’re going good – they’re your teammate, your brother – you gotta ride with them.”
And Crutcher’s emergence isn’t unexpected.
UD got him because the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, where he had previously committed, lost head coach Mike McCall to UMass in late March.
Thrown for a loop, Crutcher decommitted and thought of going to prep school for a year so he could be part of the 2018 recruiting class instead.
But then UD spotted him at an AAU Tournament, brought him to campus – where he met Scoochie Smith who was graduating that weekend – and decided on the spot to become a Flyer.
Florida Gulf Coast University already had offered him a scholarship, too, and DePaul made an offer on his flight home from Dayton.
As his mom Sheila told me a month ago:
“I’m happy everything worked out like it did. And he’s so happy right now. He loves it, He loves the school. He loves everything about Dayton I think it was a great choice.”
The choice looks pretty good for him right now and that sets up a homecoming of sorts this Sunday when the Flyers play at Mississippi State, which is in Starkville about three hours from Memphis.
“I think there’ll probably be a lot of people from home there,” he said. “A lot of my (high school) teammates are trying to get tickets. My high school coaches and an AAU coaches will be there. And a lot of my family will, too. They all wanted to see me play.”
If Wednesday night was the precursor I think it is, they will.
They’re going to see a lot of him.