Drew Crawford was where he loves to be: in a basketball arena. He was in the company of those whom he loves to be around: the tight-knit group of teammates and coaches that have essentially become his second family. He was seated, not exactly in luxury, but nonetheless, in Vegas. Vegas.
Crawford, however, was anything but pleased with his current situation. He was anything but relaxed. The senior’s face conveyed pain, frustration, disappointment. He leant his body weight forward, confined to the bench with back spasms that motivated team trainers to hold him out of that night’s game against UCLA – though there’s hardly any doubt that trainers’ advice notwithstanding, Crawford would have been out on the court battling alongside his brothers.
As the Bruins stormed to a 14-1 lead, the discomfort embodied by Crawford’s facial expression only worsened. It began to tell a story, the extended version of which Crawford had experienced the previous year. A story of helplessness.
Last season, as a senior, Crawford led a Northwestern team that carried lofty expectations. A first NCAA tournament appearance for the school was, it seemed, well within reach. In December though, Crawford and the Wildcats were dealt a huge blow – the 6-foot-5 guard/forward learned that a shoulder injury would require surgery, and that he would be forced to sit out the remainder of the season… his senior season.
This fall, Crawford was back for another go; a second chance to end his career at Northwestern how he had imagined doing so. But on the flight to Las Vegas, ahead of arguably Northwestern’s two most important games of the non-conference slate, an injury cropped up again. A past that he thought he had left behind was revisited. Crawford, once again, was helpless.
“It’s one of the toughest things. It’s something I struggled with last year, sitting on the bench and having to watch my teammates,” Crawford said Tuesday.
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