Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Next Montrell Lowe?

I've been quite critical of Purdue senior point guard Tarrance Crump lately.

His play was at times brash and too often out of control. He seemed to be abusing a green light from the coaching staff and would unneccesarily take the game to a frantic pace with out-of-control drives and insanely frustrating teardrops/runners: imagine Michael Jordan dunking from the free throw line...except this time he's gonna go high off the glass.

A play in the Illinois game seemed to seal Crump's fate though. He took an elongated drive down the left sideline, pivoting at the corner - well behind the backboard - and proceeded to fly toward the basket throwing up an airball layup that seemed to go higher than the backboard at its apex. Lucky for Purdue the Illini botched the "rebound/fair catch" and Purdue got the ball back. I believe that in those moments when Matt Painter was calling his out-of-bounds play, he finally decided to cut the cord on Crump.

You see, Coach Painter has a lot invested in Tarrance, most of which has more to do with integrity than ball distribution.

Following Crump's hit and run incident Painter took the necessary disciplinary steps to deal with the situation, but did not remove Crump from the team. Throughout the process Painter stressed that Crump was a good kid who did an incredibly bad thing. Painter was going to be firm with his punishment, but not vindictive. Crump got a second chance - like Gordon Watt did, who subsequently blew that chance and got himself dismissed - and Crumpseemed to have things moving in the right direction both on and off of the court.

Then came Las Vegas.

Crump and sophomore Keaton Grant were both disciplined and benched for the game against Missouri St. Up to that point Crump had been playing over 20 minutes a game on average. He had lost the starting position earlier in the season, yet was still getting good reserve minutes, but fans like me were growing restless with Crump's erratic play especially with the emergence of reliable freshman E'Twaun Moore.

In the eight games that have followed Vegas, Crump has only eclipsed 20 minutes in Purdue's rout at Penn St. and he didn't score that night. In the other seven post-Vegas games, Crump is averaging under 11 minutes, 2.7 points, and 0.4 assists . You might think Painter pulled the plug eight games ago, but I still think that single play against Illinois did it, because it seems Crump has now lost his last marketable skill: defense.

At the end of Saturday's game against #11 Wisconsin, the Badgers had 10.8 seconds and a two-point deficit. Painter substituted at the timeout to ensure he would have five players used to defending perimeter shots. He chose Grant, Kramer, Green, Hummel and Moore having substituted Green for the big man Calasan. Painter had the opportunity to put in the experienced and, best of all, fast Crump but decided to keep him on the bench. You might say it was a play for Green's extra three inches in height, but I doubt we see Crump in at crunch time again this season barring foul trouble.

Crump seems to have been relegated to a 10 minute a game role player. Moore, Grant, and Kramer will handle the point for the near future and their recent play seems to merit that call. Crump is still fast as lightning and able to carve his way through a defense especially in transition. He's thrown up one too many rash finger rolls from the three-point line though.

Crump is the only senior on this very, very young team, and he doesn't seem to be outwardly upset with his diminishing presence. He and Calasan were downright giddy at the end of the Wisconsin game - maybe it's a JUCO thing? At the same time, Crump has endured all kinds of experience and adversity that hopefully has been imparted on his barely post-pubescent teammates and may help them avoid some of the hardships Crump has faced. But I think that's Crump's role at this point. He's more of a bench coach than leader for this season. Hell, sophomore Chris Kramer is the captain.

Montrell Lowe seemed to have gotten the shaft in his senior year, languishing in Joe Tiller's dog house...or so we fans perceived. Crump is still a contributing member of the team (poor Montrell couldn't even get a touch down the stretch), but I think Crump's contributions are going to be showing up less and less on the stat sheet.

No comments: