Since his arrival last season, Bryant Crawford has been a lightning rod for Wake Forest fans.
On one hand, Crawford was the first big-time recruit to take a chance on Danny Manning’s vision of rebuilding the program. That light and hope that he brought allows him some leeway for his mistakes. Fans are grateful that Crawford was able to step in immediately and bring some stability to a downtrodden team.
On the other, Crawford is so tantalizingly good that his mistakes become extra frustrating. He has the courage to take big shots, but sometimes they’re ill-advised or perhaps he should have looked for center John Collins first.
This Wake Forest season will be known for the breakout of Collins, who has blossomed into one of the country’s better big men. However, Collins’ improvement appears more dramatic because he played a reserve role as a freshman.
Since Crawford played big minutes last season, his growth is incremental, meaning it’s much easier to overlook. But he’s developed into one of the ACC’s top point guards. In fact, he’s one of two ACC players to rank in the top 15 in scoring and top five in assists, along with NC State’s Dennis Smith Jr.
While Crawford has improved his numbers across the board, some jump out at you. He’s shooting 38 percent from three-point range in ACC play, up from 31 last season, and he’s hitting 80 percent from the foul line, up from 62 percent as a freshman.
But it’s Crawford’s ability to value the ball that is the biggest difference. In ACC play last season, the Maryland native posted 74 assists to 55 turnovers — a 1.3:1 ratio. He’s improved that to 81 and 41 this season for a 2:1 ratio, which ranks fifth in the league. In all games, his ratio is 2.35.
In ACC play, almost half of Crawford’s turnovers have come in three games — two against Clemson and one against Florida State. If you throw those three games out, Crawford’s ratio is 3.3 in the other 13 league games.
The turnover bursts can be unpredictable. Sometimes it’s whole games, like when he opened the ACC season with seven against FSU and five against Clemson, both games in which Wake Forest blew second-half leads. Sometimes it’s just a stretch of the game where Crawford appears to lose touch temporarily with a loose handle.
But while those moments came frequently last season, they’ve only cropped up a few times this year. Instead, Crawford continues to mature as a leader, teaming that courage and fire with better decision-making.
If the Deacons make a postseason tournament this year, it won’t just be on the shoulders of Collins. Crawford began carrying the program from the first moment of his freshman season (he played 32 minutes in his debut), and he’s holding steadier every game.