By: Kevin Ruple -- Director of Sports Information
BEREA, Ohio -- Baldwin Wallace University senior men's basketball point guard Jaron Crowe (Mentor) is trying to become just the third Ohio Athletic Conference point guard since 1975 to lead the league in assists. But passing the ball is just a part of what makes Crowe happy to be a Yellow Jacket.
"I just don't want to be known as a good basketball player and passer," said Crowe, who also excels in the classroom with a 3.4 grade point average in finance and economics. "I want to be known as a good all-around student, player, teammate and leader.
"With the experience I have gained at the college level, I try to set the best example I can for our younger players," said Crowe. "Whether it is during the offseason or a practice or game, I always try to give 100 percent effort. I have always been told that the best teams are those whose leaders work the hardest. I try my best to be an asset to the team."
Heading into the 2014-2015 OAC schedule, only Muskingum University's Brandon Todd (2006-2008) and Heidelberg University's Brett Freshour (1981-83) are the only other players to lead the OAC in assists for three straight seasons since 1975. Crowe led the OAC as a sophomore in 2013 with 128 assists and had 156 last winter. He enters BW's OAC opener on Wednesday, December 3 versus the University of Mount Union in the Rudolph Ursprung Gymnasium in the Lou Higgins Center at 3:00 p.m. with 362 career helpers.
"Playing the point guard opposition since grade school, I take pride in breaking down a defense and finding one of my teammates open for an open shot or a lay up," said the fiercely competitive Crowe.
Prior to coming to BW, Crowe overcame a series of injuries that began during his high school career and continued into his freshman and red-shirt freshman seasons.
After missing the entire 2010-2011 season at BW due to a knee injury suffered during his senior season of high school and again during a summer college league game, Crowe was bound-and-determined to make an impact as a Yellow Jacket. But that goal was also put on hold for a bit when he suffered another injury during the preseason of his red-shirt freshman campaign.
"I had surgery on my left knee after my sophomore season in high school," said Crowe. "So, when I hurt my knee prior to coming to BW during the sumer league, I had already experienced the rehabilitation process. I knew what to expect when I started the recovery from my second surgery.
"Each surgery kept reassuring me how fortunate I am to be able to still play basketball at a high level," said Crowe, who joins teammates and fellow seniors Matt Dennis (Spring Hill, Fla./ Nature Coast Technical) and Reid Crossen (Jeromesville/ Hillsdale) as a tri-captain this season. "Not everyone gets the opportunity to recover and play the game again. I just wanted to get back on the court as soon as possible and help my team win games. You never know when your last game might be, so I try to treat every game like it is my last one."
BW veteran Head Coach Duane Sheldon has often referred to Crowe as one of the best player he's ever recruited to BW.
"Jaron is one of the best basketball student-athletes we have recruited at BW," said Sheldon '93 who is in his seventh-year at his alma mater. "He was [Cleveland] The Plain Dealer Player of the Year his senior year at Mentor. He also was the best passer at the high school level I had ever seen and was very successful against great competition.
"Jaron has been through some rough times with injuries," continued Sheldon. "I think sitting out [the 2010-2011 season] and seeing some things from the bench helped him see things from a coaches view. That made him a better player when he came back healthy."
Not only can Crowe pass, he can score and defend too!
Entering the Mount Union game, Crowe has 782 career points, 162 rebounds, 362 assists, 80 steals and 116 three-pointers. He is 218 points shy of becoming the 39th member of BW's 1000-Point Club. He has led the Yellow Jackets to a 51-30 record and seeks to help BW have its fourth straight winning season.
As a freshman, Crowe played in 19 games and started five. He averaged 6.3 ppg., 1.7 rebounds-per-game and canned 26 three-pointers as BW finished 16-10 overall.
As a sophomore and in addition to leading the OAC in assists, Crowe started all 25 contests and stepped up his scoring as he averaged 8.2 ppg. with 40 triples and BW finished 19-6 overall.
Last season and in addition to leading the OAC in assists again, Crowe earned first-team All-OAC honors when he scored 15.4 ppg. and had career-highs of 2.6 rpg., 41 triples and 31 steals as BW finished 14-13.
"Our team goals are the same every year," said Crowe, who hopes to either find a job in finance and economics or return for graduate school with the long-term intention of coaching basketball at the collegiate level. "We work hard every day with the intention to get better every day and put our team in position to win an OAC championship and qualify for the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
"Jaron has proven since day one that he could handle the academic challenge at BW as well as the time commitment to basketball," said Sheldon, who was an Academic All-OAC student-athlete and basketball player while at BW. "I think it shows what kind of person he is. Bottom line, Jaron gets it.
"In addition, Jaron has become a great leader for us this season," said Sheldon. "He has become much more vocal this season since we lost six seniors to graduation after last season. We also have given him more freedom in calling our offense this season."
After accomplishing so much for his team in his first three seasons in Berea, what does Crowe want to do individually in 2014-2015.
"I try not to think about individual goals," said Crowe. "Basketball is too much of a team sport to be distracted with individual goals. I try to do whatever the team needs me to do in order for us to win games."
So, what drove Crowe to travel across Cleveland to BW instead of going to another school closer to his hometown of Mentor.
"I felt comfortable on my visit to BW and meeting some of the members of the team at that time," said Crowe looking back more than five years ago. "I also had a great relationship with the coaching staff.
"I felt BW would provide me with a great place to grow both academically and athletically," said Crowe. "I also already knew a number of Mentor people who were already at BW, so it definitely felt right."
Crowe still feels a BW education was the right decision for him.
"I have enjoyed all of my teammates and friends that I have had the privilege of getting to know and play with during the past five years," said Crowe. "I have made some lifelong friends and will walk away with many great memories when I graduate in May.
"BW has been great to me," continued Crowe. "It has given me the opportunity to play basketball and grow in the classroom. I have had a great experience and would not have changed a thing about my college career."
Sheldon agrees with Crowe but also knows his challenges begin with Mount Union.
"Mount Union will be a great challenge for us to start off the OAC season," said Sheldon. "They are a very good offensive team with a bunch of guys that can really shoot it. Both teams will be ready to give their best effort. We look forward to the challenge."
Following its game versus Mount Union, BW remains at home and hosts Otterbein University this Saturday, December 6 in the Ursprung Gymnasium at 3:00 p.m. The Yellow Jackets are at OAC-rival Muskingum University on Saturday, Dec. 13 at 3:00 p.m.