Playing for strong Washington (D.C.) Gonzaga high school in the famed D.C. metro area, Bryant Crawford always was going to enjoy a leg up in terms of exposure. Not that he needed the help: Crawford established himself early as a potentially big-time prospect.
He performed well at times on the big stage as a junior, as Gonzaga always competes against a stout schedule. He was inconsistent on other occasions, however, generating questions about his ultimate status within the class.
Crawford opened up the 2014 spring by performing very well at the Metro Challenge 60. That event propelled him into the actual travel season, where he toured with Team Takeover on the EYBL circuit.
He played very solidly for Takeover, a strong squad that advanced out of round robin play into the Peach Jam. Crawford shared the court with other high-majors but found a way to contribute consistent and fairly efficient production.
He committed to Wake Forest over Georgetown, SMU and others. He'll have an opportunity to play early in Winston-Salem and possesses a hard-charging style that's likely to impress the Deacs' coaching staff.
Crawford is a strong, fast, quick and aggressive ballhandler who prefers power over finesse. Even when he's making plays for others — which he does frequently — his style seems confrontational rather than deceptive.
|Bryant is best when he has a full head of steam|
He's an effective scorer on the move and particularly in transition, where his natural physical gifts are able to manifest fully. He uses the glass well and likes to scoop the ball off the wrong foot without slowing down and giving shotblockers an opportunity to approach from the helpside.
Meanwhile, Crawford is a talented playmaker. He didn't average a ton of assists for Takeover, but that squad featured multiple guards. In high school and camp settings, he has impressed with his court vision and hard, whipping passes to players directly at the rim.
And he could develop into a truly outstanding defender. Crawford's 6-2, 180-pound frame makes him big for a defensive point, yet he's also strong enough to defend wings as needed. He averaged a steal and a half per game for Takeover, thanks to quick hands and his ability to overpower opponents.
There's no consensus on this point, but I believe Crawford is a natural combo rather than a full-on point guard. The reason for that is he tends to get loose with his dribble and sometimes suffers from surprising turnover binges, both as a ballhandler and a passer.
He's easily quick and strong enough to handle against pressure, but Wake may need to put a secondary handler around him occasionally to assist. Crawford also didn't shoot well on the EYBL circuit, hitting just 30 percent on threes. The upshot is that he didn't take too many, and his overall, 47 percent field goal accuracy mark was solid for a guard.
His present limitations appear to be correctable, but patience likely will be required.
Wake Forest fans are hungry for a winner, after several years of mediocre to poor results. The proud Deacs program needs a roster overhaul, and Crawford — ranked No. 9 at his position and No. 83 overall in the senior class — represents a very positive step.
Manning's reputation as a skills coach and obvious NBA pedigree should give the program a boost in recruiting, and if he can facilitate a pipeline to Takeover specifically and the Beltway generally, all the better.
As mentioned above, Crawford projects as the kind of point guard who will need to grow into that role before he's ready to command the reins. Fans may want to see an immediate impact player, but I view that as less likely. What should happen, however, is that Crawford brings defensive pop right off the bat and learns under the tutelage of Codi Miller-McIntyre for one season.
As he matures, he should be able to round out his transition scoring and playmaking with greater precision play in the halfcourt game. Without question, he constitutes a great start to Wake's 2015 recruiting effort.