Crawford an Honorary Husky

SEATTLE - During Lorenzo Romar's time at the University of Washington, he has developed a culture of former players staying close with the program and current players. However, beyond the normal players of the past, the Huskies have also adopted a few other local players that decided to go elsewhere for college. Former Michigan Wolverine Jamal Crawford is one such player.

Crawford, a former Rainier Beach star and current guard for the Portland Trail Blazers, chose Michigan over Washington and UCLA upon graduating high school in 1999. Despite choosing to leave Seattle, Crawford has been accepted by the hometown school.

"He went to Michigan, but he's a Husky. He's definitely a Husky," said Will Conroy, former Washington Husky point guard and long-time friend of Crawford's. "He always came back every single summer when he was in the NBA. He came back to play open gym with us every single day. He did everything but practice with the team. He came in the weight room and even came to have lunch with Brandon (Roy) and me sometimes. He's definitely an honorary Husky."

Conroy, who said he met Crawford when he was 13 while playing in a late-night gym, considers Crawford to be an older brother. Conroy credits Crawford for showing the Seattle basketball community that NBA dreams can come true.

Although Crawford's accomplishments on the court are special, Conroy said there is something more special about the 12-year NBA veteran. "He's the most caring person that you'll meet," Conroy said. "He'll take the shirt off his back and give it to you if you're cold. He's that kind of guy.

"We play pickups or open gyms anywhere and he is always giving pointers to the kids. He will talk to kid's parents. He's making sure kids are getting good grades. On several different occasions, I've seen him bring sneakers to the gym and give the kids shoes. Or if the kid's shoes were bad, I've seen Jamal bring some extra shoes to the gym to give to the kid. He's very instrumental in the community right now."

Romar echoed Conroy's sentiments and said Crawford is a big part of Seattle. "He is so giving," said Romar, who recruited Crawford in high school for UCLA. "He gives himself constantly and I think there are a lot of people in this community that have been affected in a positive way because of Jamal Crawford. He's willing to extend himself and help so much. I always see him donating something: Donating his time, his wisdom, endorsing a new facility that's opening, he's just everywhere."

While Crawford plays down his contribution to Seattle, he said he is just giving back to an area that made him the person he is today. "I don't know, I think it helped make me who I am, honestly," he said. "I think it deserves so much credit and I'm so happy that people know that we have basketball players up here. At first, football was the big thing and a lot of guys were going Division I in football and some in basketball, but it wasn't really possible to think that you could go to the NBA."

Now a grizzled NBA vet, Crawford was drafted eighth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2000, but was traded on draft day to the Chicago Bulls. Having left for the pros after his freshman year at Michigan, it took Crawford a few years to make an impact, but ever since 2003, the 6-foot-5 guard has been a potent scorer and all-around player.

Romar said Crawford's NBA success is a big reason he is respected by Washington players.

"Jamal loves the game. He's a great, great guy," Romar said. "He's played 12 years in the NBA, and you watch him play and you're just amazed at how talented he is. He scored 50 points in an NBA game. So, he has instant credibility with our guys and he is so willing to share of his wisdom and share nuggets with the guys. So, it's great to him around."

Crawford, who was the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2010 for Atlanta, said after his freshman year at Michigan he considered transferring to Washington, but opted for the NBA draft instead. If he was a senior in high school now, Crawford said it would have been tough to turn down coach Romar and Washington. Despite never donning the purple and gold, Crawford is flattered to be considered a Husky.

"I'm a part of the Seattle community and it means everything to me," said Crawford, who has played for Chicago, New York, Golden State, Atlanta, and now Portland. "I'm here more than any other place when I'm not playing basketball. I hate to leave and I love Seattle. So, when I have all my closest friends go to the University of Washington, to be an honorary Husky is really cool. Coach Romar and his coaching staff have really embraced me from Day One."


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