This may not come as real good news for the rest of the Big East Conference, but Marquette University senior forward Jae Crowder is feeling pretty good about himself as a basketball player these days.
And for good reason.
Crowder is having an outstanding season as he has been a steady and reliable player on the court and, along with fellow senior Darius Johnson-Odom, has provided the Golden Eagles with some valuable veteran leadership off the court.
"I feel comfortable," said Crowder. "I feel great physically and mentally.
I'm prepared for every game. I feel great. I'm very happy." After defeating Louisville at home and Providence on the road last week, Crowder and the Golden Eagles moved up in both of the national polls. In the AP poll, the Golden Eagles jumped from No. 21 to No. 17, while in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, Marquette moved from No. 22 to No. 18.
Marquette (16-4, 5-2 Big East) will take a four-game winning streak into Tuesday night's game against South Florida (12-8, 5-2) at the Bradley Center.
Aside from some occasional foul trouble, Crowder has been a picture of consistency for the Golden Eagles. He is the only player to rank among the top 15 in seven Big East statistical categories.
Crowder is ninth in scoring (16.3), 10th in rebounding (7.4), fifth in steals (2.2), 15th in three-point percentage (38.8%), 13th in three-point baskets per game (1.9), fifth in defensive rebounds per game (5.5) and 13th in field-goal percentage (51.1%).
"I'm pleased," said Crowder.
Crowder is averaging 30.7 minutes per game, second on the team to Johnson-Odom (31.1 minutes), and is also second on the team in scoring to Johnson-Odom (18.2). Crowder is the team leader in rebounding and steals, and his 20 blocked shots ties Jamil Wilson for the team lead.
What stands out to coach Buzz Williams about the way Crowder has played this season? "Similar to the guys we have had in each year we have been here that have played where Jae is at this year, it's his versatility on both ends of the floor," said Williams. "I have said to anyone who would listen since the beginning of the year, I believe his curve of importance will be even greater than his predecessors and thus far, that has held true.
"His instincts and intelligence allow us to do a variety of things offensively and defensively. His efficiency within that has been better than any other player since we have been here. It is not one thing, it's multiple things and that is what makes him an absolutely vital part of what we do." An important contribution that Crowder makes is not visible to the public. With so many new faces on the team this season, Crowder and Johnson-Odom have provided a guiding hand to the younger, more inexperienced players.
Crowder said he doesn't hesitate to be a vocal leader when necessary. "It's not out in front of everybody, it's behind closed doors," he said of his leadership role. "That's where we get the job done. We try to bring it every day. You have to be vocal because we've done it before and we know what to expect. The younger guys who haven't played at this level, we try to bring them on mentally and things like that. A lot of it is mental.
It's not even just the physical sense." The leadership of Crowder and Johnson-Odom has had a far-reaching positive effect.
"Jae and D.J. have been outstanding in their leadership thus far this year," said Williams. "I have never been big on appointing captains nor on just giving the oldest guys the most responsibility.
True leadership, in my opinion, is not defined by age or experience.
"This year, though, our leadership has come from our two seniors and the bulk of their leadership has transpired off the floor and that is evident when you watch our team on the floor. I think they have been superlative in their actions off the floor and the example they have set for the other 10 guys on our team away from (the practice gym).".
Copyright 2012, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)
"His instincts and intelligence allow us to do a variety of things offensively and defensively." Buzz Williams, Marquette coach, on senior Jae Crowder
Copyright, 2012, Journal Sentinel, All Rights Reserved.