Seniors Miles Crawford and Josh Jordan have been best friends and nearly inseparable since they were fifth-graders.
As eighth-graders at Harpool Middle School, they were part of a basketball team that took its district by storm and had Guyer’s basketball coaches salivating at the thought of getting four years with them.
But it hasn’t exactly gone as planned for the Wildcats and head coach Grant Long, who was an assistant coach at Guyer when the two were dominating the competition for Harpool.
“He saw me go through my thing my freshman year, so we didn’t get to play together then,” Crawford said. “We really haven’t seen the floor much together, and that’s been a little frustrating.”
Crawford’s “thing” as a freshman was a blood clot in his leg that saw him lose nearly 30 pounds, lots of strength and an entire season on the floor as the sharpshooter wasn’t even allowed to practice.
Jordan, whom Crawford and Long both call “the best post player in Class 4A,” was buried on the depth chart as a sophomore and was poised for a huge breakout campaign last season before injuring the same knee three times — the final one being a torn anterior cruciate ligament that required surgery in March.
“If Josh has a healthy season, I think he’s the best big man in 4A and one of the best in the state, period,” Long said of his 6-8 post. “That’s frustrating for him and everybody else to not have one of your best players on the floor.”
Jordan only played in 12 games last season and averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds. That included the Wildcats’ first playoff win in program history, in which he suffered the torn ACL. The Wildcats won the District 5-4A title and finished with a 24-7 record but lost in the area round to state semifinalist Fort Worth Arlington Heights.
Heading into the 2013-14 season, Guyer is being rewarded for its experience-laden team by receiving a No. 2 ranking in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 4A state poll behind perennial powerhouse Dallas Kimball, which Guyer will face later this month without Jordan.
A big reason for that success was Crawford, who took advantage of a position switch — from shooting guard to point guard — and matured on the floor and off it while still getting strength back from his health scare as a freshman. For instance, he is just now dunking again after not being able to since he was an eighth-grader, Jordan said.
At 6-2, Crawford is a tall point guard — a matchup nightmare — and improved his passing ability in the 2012-13 season while also becoming a lockdown defender.
Crawford averaged a team-high 12 points and four assists per game while getting everyone involved. In fact, the Wildcats had six players last year who averaged at least seven points per game, and five of those return this season.
“I think I got better in involving my teammates a lot more,” Crawford said. “I was passing the ball really well and my assists went up. That really opened up the game, and when I had open looks I could knock them down. I was just getting to the rack, creating for my teammates and they were finishing.”
Jordan said Crawford made him better throughout the season, even if he didn’t get to play with him that much. Crawford, known around the program as a relentless worker, has been an integral part of Jordan’s rehab that has him on pace to return just about nine months removed from knee surgery.
“I can honestly say when I come back I’ll be better because he drags me along to the gym on nights when I’m just sitting at home feeling sorry for myself,” Jordan said of Crawford. “He’s made me better. Knowing the impact he’s had on my life, I’m forever indebted to him. He’s taught me so much — how to be a man and what it means to set your mind to something and go out and do it.”
Jordan knows the pressure that comes with the preseason hype that has vaulted the Wildcats into the state’s elite among pollsters. And while he’s sad he won’t be on the floor at Dallas’ Sprague Field House on Nov. 26 against the top-ranked Knights, he hopes he’ll have his chance against them come March.
“I hope we can play them again in Austin, because we won’t have all our players [Jordan and possibly injured guard Mitchell Willard],” Jordan said. “I’m pretty sure they’re going to be there. I just hope we’re there too.”
If Jordan’s plan comes to fruition, Guyer basketball will officially be on the map.
“I’m very excited for the boys and the program,” Long said. “Our boys have the mindset that they’re not happy until they’re No. 1 at the end of the season. There’s no one that has higher expectations than we do. Year in and year out, this is a program that’s going to talk about winning state championships. We want that tradition built, and we’ve done that now.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.
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2012-13 record: 13-16
Players to watch: G Trent Willis, G Xavier Gray, F/C Jatin Bailey
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Players to watch: G Deamonte Hughes, F Adarian Harris, G Key’andre Hearvey
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Players to watch: F Stephen Ugochukwu, G Grier Newlan, G/F Mark Slack