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Roundabout: The Joe Show

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From the depths of unrequited expectations to the heights of ... media hype?

Yes, as amazing as it seems, Joe Crawford has made the transformation from disappointment to kinda-sorta diva in just 2 months time.  The mind fairly boggles at what this could have been like if he had done this, say, a year or so ago.  But as the old saying goes, "Better late than never."

Exhibit A:  NBA stock watch from HoopsWorld had this opinion of Crawford recently under the heading of STOCK UP -- Who's on the rise:

Joe Crawford
Crawford ended his Kentucky career in style on Thursday, scoring 35 points before fouling out and keeping his Kentucky Wildcats squad in a game they had no business being in. The heart he displayed in putting everything he had on the court was admirable.

This performance should keep Crawford's name bandied about as a possible second-round pick. At 6-4, Crawford doesn't have the size to play the 2 at the next level, but he has the athleticism and intangibles (leadership, unselfish, etc.) to make up for some of that. He's a scorer, plain and simple, able to finish acrobatically around the basket and also hit jumpers. Should the NBA not work out this summer, Crawford has a future playing ball in Europe and might be able to come back around later after his game develops some more.

Now, I can hear some of you say, "Second round?  He's better than that!"  Well, from an NBA standpoint, Joe is kind of a 'tweener.  He isn't really big enough for the two spot in today's NBA, and he doesn't really have point guard skills.  Still, Crawford has a good handle and can absolutely score.  He has a powerful body and an amazing knack for getting the ball in the hole amongst the trees, and that is a rare gift.  And what Wildcat fan would have used the words "unselfish" and "leadership" in a positive way when talking about Crawford early in the year?

I think he may well go in the second round, and has a reasonable shot to make a roster next year.  If not, he still has lots of pro possibilities.  Joe will definitely be making a living off basketball somewhere.

Exhibit B:  NBC's Beyond the Arc:

I know a 74-66 loss to Marquette in the first-round wasn't what Kentucky or its fans was hoping for, but after a season where the `Cats started 7-9 only to win 11 of their last 14 games, this wasn't a bad way to go out.

But it wasn't easy, either. Especially after watching Crawford torch the Eagles for 35 points.

"I came here to win," he said. "That's what I wanted to do. So I'm just kind of sad right now because, you know, I feel like we had a good chance and I'm just kind of down right now."
And then there is this:
4:30 p.m.: With mid-afternoon blowouts, everyone's attention turned to Kentucky-Marquette. Joe Crawford became a media room hero, while you could get dizzy seeing UK coach Billy Gillispie on six different TVs at the same time. Unfortunately for those of us who like upsets, Marquette ended up winning. Somewhere, former Marquette coach Al McGuire is smiling. [Emphasis mine]
How must it feel to be called a "media room hero?"

Finally, we have this observation from College Hoops Net:
Yet with everything that happened this season, one image stands out to me. As the seconds ticked off the clock in UK's 74-66 loss to Marquette, the camera panned to a close-up of UK senior Joe Crawford, who had just fouled out of the game. Crawford, normally stoic and unemotional throughout his career, had tears streaming down his cheeks, barely able to watch the final few seconds. Despite gutsy, gritty and phenomenal performance by Crawford (35 points) and fellow senior Ramel Bradley (19), the Cats would be going home. An 18-13 season, marked by extreme ups and downs, was finally over.
Sweet.  Justly deserved.

There was a lot more to this than just some well-deserved praise by sportswriters.  As a member of the Big Blue Nation, the pathos of this season is hard to get my head around, especially when faced with the reality that it was anything but a typical Kentucky season in many, many ways.  Sometimes during this year I felt like I was cheering for a team I did not really know, and watching the development of Crawford, Bradley and Stevenson from afterthoughts into fallen heroes is just ... well, it's one of those alternate universe kind of things.

It is good that Crawford is getting this praise, and Bradley, too.  Sometimes, all you need is to charge forth into battle with no concern for self or consequences, trusting your coach and teammates to watch your back, and amazing things can happen.  This season was fascinating in so many ways, the proper words do not exist in my vocabulary to extol the depth of its reality.  It has the feel of something out of Hoosiers or Remember the Titans, almost as though it has a deeper meaning, somehow, than just a barely passable basketball season.  In a way, I feel that somehow the world has changed as a result of it, and I can't quite put my finger on how.

I guess it will just take time to figure out.