The plan was for Drew Crawford to play through the pain. However, it became too much. The torn labrum—still lingering two years later—became unbearable.
Crawford saw his numbers drop and was never comfortable on the court. That senior forward opted to end his season and have surgery on his injured shoulder.
"Obviously, I would have loved to finish this season with my team," said Crawford, upbeat as he met the media. "I think we're a great team and capable of a lot. But it has gotten to the point where I don't think I can help my team in the best way. I didn't want to put them through that and I didn't want to put myself through that."
The injury occurred during Northwestern's 2010 victory over Iowa, when Crawford fell to the floor and landed on his right shoulder. He wore a brace on the shoulder for the remainder of that season. With the pain flaring up again early this season, Crawford began wearing the brace again and was required to ice his shoulder after each game.
Mired in an early-season slump, Crawford discussed his options with his parent, head coach Bill Carmody, and athletic director Jim Phillips. Crawford is just barely eligible for a medical hardship waiver, granting a fifth year of action. He holds great optimism that his Northwestern career isn't over yet, but wishes to play out the current campaign.
"I'm obviously upset this happened," said Crawford. "I wish I could finish the season with the [recruiting class] that I came in with and finish the season with my team. At the same time, I'm glad for the opportunity to come back next season."
Crawford's shoulder will return to full strength after surgery and the proceeding rehabilitation process, and he'll no longer be limited by the pain. That's the positive news he takes away.
"It was one of those things where it wasn't getting any better," Crawford said. "It kind of keeps holding you back. It's tough to play in games like that."
Without Crawford, Northwestern's hopes for 2012 are bleak. The senior forward was expected to carry the burden for an otherwise young roster. Now, it's essentially a rebuilding year, with freshmen Kale Abrahamson and Sanjay Lumpkin expected to fill the void.
"This is a chance for all these guys to get in there and play," Coach Carmody said. "I feel bad for [Drew], but now you move on and you go."
Without Crawford, Northwestern frequently feature a three-guard lineup, with a heavy rotation in use. Abrahamson will likely start on Monday against Stanford, Carmody said, but Sanjay Lumpkin and Alex Marcotullio—who have both been limited thus far in the season—will all help fill the void, too.
"I don't feel bad about our depth as long as the guys that come in produce," said Carmody.
Crawford's season is over, but he remains hopeful his Northwestern career will continue. After surgery on, he'll be able to reach for his full potential.
"Hopefully," he said, "I won't have any more problems in the future."