"When Joe says something, you better listen," Stevenson said.
Actually, when Crawford does something, we all should pay attention because he's become a terrific player for the Wildcats.
He's become a prolific scorer, solid defender and reliable rebounder. However, Crawford's leadership might be the most important ingredient he's added for Kentucky this year. It didn't start when UK made its surprising Southeastern Conference run that has lifted UK to 11-4 in conference play -- and back in solid NCAA Tournament contention .
Instead, it began early in the year when Crawford was coming back from a summer injury and trying to work his way into Gillispie's good graces. The coach chastised Crawford about everything from his defense to his conditioning to his shot selection.
Rather than pout, Crawford said the right things and worked to get back into Gillispie's good graces.
" If his head isn't there every day, then our heads won't be and we are not as good. If Joe is all in it, then we just take after him," sophomore teammate Perry Stevenson said. "Early on, he was always a leader. It was a problem with the rest of the team not being able to handle stuff, but it wasn't his fault. He didn everything he could to get his to do what coach Gillispie wanted."
Surprisingly, Stevenson views Crawford as an extension of Gillispie on the court even though Crawford is not nearly as vocal or demonstrative as senior teammate Ramel Bradley.
"He tells you the good and bad. Joe is kind of like an extension of Coach. So is Ramel. They don't just tell you everything good that you are doing. They will tell you what you are doing bad, too," Stevenson said. "They are both about the same when it comes to getting on you. They are your teammates, but you will hear it from them both."
Hopefully Crawford and Bradley both will "hear it" from UK fans Sunday, too, because these two seniors might not have a Final Four on their resume, but they certainly have played with the heart and tenacity this year that UK fans admire and respect in players.