Commentary

Mavs' Crowder follows role model

Just like his advice-giving father, rookie took indirect path to reach the NBA

Updated: July 16, 2012, 3:28 PM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

Jae Crowder has a leg up on his fellow rookies with the Dallas Mavericks and across the association because his father, Corey Crowder, preceded his winding journey to the NBA with one of his own.

Like father, like son, the Crowder path wasn't lined with star dust and a pot of gold waiting on the dotted line of a rookie contract.

The Crowder way was fraught with impossible odds and hurdled with relentless work and endlessly willing the body and soul to succeed.

[+] EnlargeCorey Crowder
AP Photo/Patrick GardinCorey Crowder, shown playing defense for France's Elan Chalon in 2005, had a 14-year pro career that included stints in the NBA and with overseas teams.

"Just the mere fact that Jae Crowder was there in front of you for you to be able to interview him was a miracle in itself," Corey said of his son. "If you would have told me five years ago that he was going to be a draft pick in the NBA draft, I think everybody would have probably signed me up for the crazy house because nobody could predict that."

Out of Carrollton, Ga., Corey headed to Kentucky in the mid-1980s to play college ball for the mighty Panthers of Kentucky Wesleyan, and in 1991 he finally made it to the NBA as an undrafted free agent. His NBA career consisted of 58 total games for the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs spanning two seasons and four years.

Out of Villa Rica, Ga., some 20 years later, Jae, a high school quarterback, had no real decision to make so he took his basketball talents to South Georgia Tech Junior College. Then he headed to Howard College in the West Texas outpost of Big Spring before Marquette finally made him an offer to join a major conference program.

"His whole journey to the NBA is just one that someday he's going to have to write a book about," Corey said. "But he had to work and claw and scratch to get to where he's at, and it's the same thing I had to do."

It's fitting that Corey, 43, has already written a book. A few years ago he self-published "Superstar for Life: A Professional and College Basketball Players Guide to Elite Performance On and Off the Court."

His goal after a 14-year professional basketball career in the NBA and overseas, followed by a successful business career in Ft. Myers, Fla., is to give young players -- overnight famous and with fat wallets -- something of a road map to help them avoid lurking pot holes that can quickly derail a professional career.

Corey serves on the board of directors of the Orlando chapter of the National Basketball Retired Players Association, and he spoke to the NBA's newest crop of rookies at the recent Orlando Summer League.

[+] EnlargeJae Crowder
AP Photo/John BazemoreMavs coach Rick Carlisle lauds rookie Jae Crowder for his enthusiasm and skill.

"The things I talk about are not so much things to live by," Corey said. "I just tell you based on my 14 years of experience, every single thing you are going to have to deal with and, in my point of view, how you should handle it.

"Things like family and money, girls on the road, how do you deal with your agent, the general manager, your head coach, your teammates, jealousy, gambling, drugs. I just touch on all the stuff that I know they're going to be faced with."

It's the stuff he has imparted to his son for years, and especially now as Jae embarks on his own professional career after being selected 34th overall by the Mavs.

Jae -- whose contract, like for all second-rounders, is not guaranteed -- got his first taste of NBA competition Sunday with the start of the Las Vegas Summer League.

"He's eager to listen because what I learned is, 'How do I give him information without him thinking that I'm trying to ruin his life because I'm his father?'" Corey said.

Jae talks to his dad every day.

"In college it really started, but when I got to this level and knew I could play at this level, he just tried to help me out with what to expect and things like that," Jae said. "Things have changed since he played, but it's still the NBA, so he's trying to help me through it."

At 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, Jae is an inch taller and a more rugged version of his father. The surprise Big East Player of the Year -- Jae was an honorable mention pick in the conference's preseason selections -- played multiple positions for Marquette and might have the best chance of Dallas' three draft picks to make an immediate contribution.

His ability to impact areas that aren't necessarily revealed in a box score -- energy, hustle and defense -- could earn him time at small forward behind Shawn Marion and Vince Carter.

"You have scorers here, you have leaders, you just have to have someone with energy and someone who can fight night in and night out," Jae said. "That's what I feel like I have to bring to a team like this. I think that will be my role, and I'm looking forward to it."

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said Jae has already become a hot commodity around the league, with multiple teams calling to try prying away the dreadlocked 22-year-old.

Teammates have certainly followed the intensely competitive, blue-collar leader. South Georgia Tech advanced to its first NJCAA national tournament appearance in 2008-09. The next season, Howard College won its first national title with Corey named the NJCAA Player of the Year.

In his senior season at Marquette, Jae averaged 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.5 steals as the Golden Eagles finished with a program-best 14-4 record in the Big East and made a trip to the Sweet 16.

"One of the reasons he got voted [Big East Player of the Year] was because of the enthusiasm and skill that he brings to the game," Carlisle said. "We love him and we're glad that he's here. We feel that he's going to help us.

"He's going to help us at times in games, but he's going to help us every day in practice and he's going to help push everybody. He's going to be a system player here for a long time, we feel."

And with the support of his dad, he's likely to be a player the Mavs won't have to worry about on or off the court.

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