Crawford averaged 13 points and five rebounds in 139 games, and counting, for Northwestern. He helped the team to two NIT appearances.
Even more impressive, his outstanding play carried the current roster to five Big Ten wins. Finally the leader, there were mixed results—none of which detracted from his career.
But on Tuesday, Chris Collins described Drew Crawford's career—and his last season—better than I could. True ‘Cats fans will always remember him as the man who bridged two eras, doing so with flair and character.
"From day one, when I got the job, [keeping Drew] was my number one project. Not only because he was a really good player, but for everything he represented. I felt it was very important to get him to believe in what we were doing going forward."
Initially, there was concern as to whether Crawford would return to Northwestern. There were rumors that Missouri and UCLA were among the teams interested in his services. Instead, he met with Collins and cemented his commitment to NU basketball and his teammates.
"All of a sudden, it's a rookie coach. For him to believe in me the way he has, to kind of lock arms with me in this first year, I will always have his back for that."
Chris Collins marked a clear departure from the old system. Crawford spent about three and a half years in the Princeton—though that didn't necessarily aid him. Collins spent a great deal of time during the offseason getting to know his players. Keeping Crawford gave him instant credibility.
"For him, it has been the combination of playing basketball at high level, but also excelling in the classroom."
This is a well-known fact on campus: Drew Crawford, even for NU athlete standards, was incredibly committed to academics. He participated in classes, and eventually secured first team Academic All-American honors.
"He and I, instantly, we had a great connection. The one thing I think that's been great for him is being in a position where you kind of have your own team."
This was probably why it made sense for Drew to stay. He's the unquestioned leader of NU basketball, with a supporting cast that looked up to him. Although Jershon Cobb outplayed him for stretches of this season, Crawford improved his rebounding and put together a strong overall season.
"He's gotten so much better as a player. He's a far more advanced player now than he was when we started this thing at the beginning of the year."
This is the one debatable thing. Crawford was not as good as he should have been. In big games, he tended to disappear. His three-point shooting was considerably worse than in some past seasons. Too often, he was visibly frustrated and struggled to be "the guy" in winnable contests. So often, they were so close, with Drew doing little on certain nights to help the cause.
"It's sad that he's leaving, but the one thing I always say is… When you leave your mark, you've done a lot of good things."
"He represents everything we want to be. Going forward, we want to have young men like Drew Crawford. He's a model of everything I would like this program to be about."
On Senior Night, his career drawing to a close, we can't deny that.