Sunday, August 28, 2005
Duke Crews - Georgetown is One of Four Finalists
Penns Grove product took game to Virginia, now a five-star recruit
Within the year, Willard "Duke" Crews will have to make a life-changing decision.
Judging by his past actions, weighing difficult choices is an area the senior has experience.
Three years ago, Crews showed plenty of potential as a freshman on the Penns Grove High School boys basketball team. Crews stood approximately 6-foot-4 and carried the raw talent to be a dominant post player. He finished the 2002-03 season averaging 10.6 points per game and was named a Today's Sunbeam first-team all-star.
Crews' game developed on the playgrounds of Penns Grove. All who saw and mentored the budding star knew his potential would blossom into a blue-chip high school player. But an opportunity to gain more exposure and play at a higher level in Virginia couldn't be passed up.
The 15-year-old's fortune wouldn't come without sacrifice -- Crews would have to say goodbye to his mother, Louise Patrick. The transition was softened, though, as Crews was leaving one family member to join another.
Terrence Patrick, a Penns Grove alum, led Division III Newport News Apprentice School to two national championships in basketball, and his impressive skills on the gridiron has earned him an NFL tryout in September.
While attending Newport News, Patrick invited Crews, his brother, to come live with him. Crews took his brother up on the offer and has matured into a highly-touted Division I recruit at Bethel High School.
"It was just a better situation down there," Crews said. "That area has a bigger name. It's known for putting people in better schools and into professional sports. You've got Allen Iverson, Aaron Brooks, Michael Vick, Ronald Curry, there's a whole lot of people (who have come from that area.)"
"I think it's been pretty tough on (Louise Patrick)," said Terrence Patrick. "First it was me after high school, but once Willard came down here, too, she had to make a lot more trips. She wanted to make sure we were being taken care of. She's spent a lot of time on the road."
Crews now tips the scales at 235 pounds and stands at 6-foot-7. He is currently ranked 28th in the country for the Class of 2006 by Rivals.com, and has been given a five-star rating after a sensational spring and summer of AAU ball.
"I've never seen someone have such a big turnaround. He's easily the hottest prospect of the summer," Jason Jordan, a writer for the Daily Press in Newport News said. "I remember talking to him during the end of the (high school) season, he wasn't ranked in the top 150 in February or March.
"At the Boo Williams Invitational Tournament, he had a really good game against Brandon Wright -- a 6-foot-9 forward from Brentwood Academy out of Nashville, Tenn., ranked No. 5 in the nation by Rivals.com -- in the first game of the tournament and he showed him up. He knocked him down on defense and scored on him at will. He's kept at that level and went above."
Crews' play with the Boo Williams AAU team has turned plenty of heads as his potential college suitors read like a grocery list of the top college hoops programs in the country.
Among those interested in the small forward are: Cincinnati, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, Georgetown, Virginia, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Duke, Georgia Tech, Florida, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma State, Kentucky, Michigan State and Clemson.
While it may not be March, Crews has formed his own final four, trimming his list to North Carolina, Wake Forest, Tennessee and Georgetown.
"I always knew I was going to college, I just didn't know where," Crews said. "Now that I've established myself as one of the best players in the country, I have my choice of schools and it's a great opportunity for me.
"That's what everybody dreams about, having a UNC and Duke (recruiting you), and now I have it, so it's a dream come true."
Jordan, who also writes for ESPN the Magazine and Rivals.com, said he believes Crews will have an immediate impact as a freshman at the collegiate level.
"He plays really, really strong around the basket," Jordan said. "He finishes hard. He plays hard. He's raw, but he's an excellent player. And he's necessary. You need him on your team. He's going to work hard and give you a double-double."
Defensively, Jordan compared Crews to Sheldon Williams, the Duke standout who was named NABC Defensive Player of the Year after breaking school records with 122 blocks for the season and averaging 3.7 blocks per game.
As a junior at Bethel, Crews averaged 18 points per game, leading Bethel to a 22-4 record and the state regional semifinals.
While a whirlwind of hype has swirled around Crews as his stock has risen over the summer, he hasn't allowed himself to get caught up in all the hoopla. Crews has remained humble, a trait his mother instilled in him.
"He has handled himself very well," Louise Patrick said. "When I ask him certain questions -- I want to know why he chose a certain college, I want to know what it was -- and he gives me what I need to know. So I'm satisfied with that.
"To have all the top programs respect him and look at him as, 'Oh my God, this guy is genuine,' I love that. Just to get the pat on the back to say you did a great job. It all paid off."
Sunbeam reporter John Zagone contributed to this story.