This story is part of a Paint Touches’ series, Jae Crowder: Path to the NBA, which will track Crowder’s workouts, interviews, and tryouts leading up to the June 28 NBA Draft in New York City.
Jae Crowder’s playing days in a Marquette uniform are over, but the forward has wasted no time preparing for the next chapter of his basketball career.
Following his historic senior year in which he was named Big East Player of the Year and a second team All-American, Crowder has begun daily workouts in Milwaukee and Miami in preparation for the upcoming NBA Draft on June 28.
Crowder said he was disappointed that the Golden Eagles, who lost to Florida in the Sweet 16, couldn’t have played on in the NCAA Tournament, but he didn’t have much time to think about the loss.
A quintessential team player, Crowder was forced to make a difficult, more selfish transition at season’s end.
“After the loss I had to take some time for myself, because for months it was all about the team,” Crowder said. “But then I had to start thinking about myself.”
His first stop was in New Orleans, but not for the reason he would have liked.
He participated in the Reese’s All-Star game, where he was named MVP after scoring 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Last year Jimmy Butler scored 12 points in the same game, held in Houston.
“There was great competition, of course,” Crowder said. “You never see 10 guys at the college level who, 1 through 5, can all score. So the competition was higher than normal, but the guys were all fun.”
Crowder said he enjoyed playing alongside fellow Big East forward Henry Sims from Georgetown, and that he formed a friendship with Iona’s Scott Machado. Sims scored 11 points, while Machado added 11 points and eight assists in the East’s 103-99 victory.
Crowder stayed to watch all three games in New Orleans, where Kentucky cut down the nets after defeating Kansas 67-59 in the National Championship.
“I had to let it go and just be a fan of basketball,” Crowder said. “I wasn’t happy that we weren’t there, but I was happy to be watching basketball.”
New Orleans hasn’t been the Villa Rica, Ga., native’s only trip down south.
For the last three weeks, he has taken weekend flights to Miami to begin his NBA training. After attending classes and working out in Milwaukee Monday through Friday, he takes a Friday evening flight to Miami for workouts.
Once school ends (Marquette’s last final date is May 11), Crowder will fly back to Miami and stay there for workouts until the NBA Draft.
Crowder stays with his father — Corey — in Miami, where he works with specific coaches on agility, ball-handling, shooting, strength and nutriton.
Crowder, who played forward during his two seasons at Marquette, is making the transition to become a guard at the next level. He is looking to lose 20 pounds to weigh around 220, which he believes will help him excel as a shooting guard in the NBA.
All of his workouts begin with an hour and thirty minutes strictly of agility, working on hip movement, speed and first steps.
His ball-handling drills include work both full court and half court situations.
Crowder also said that, despite his consistent outside shot, one of the biggest adjustments is learning to shoot like a guard. Most of the drills he does with his shooting coach are situations he did not face in college, where Crowder was more of a spot-up shooter from a set position on the floor.
“We do a lot of combo moves off the dribble, stationary shots, shots off a screen, and moving without the ball,” Crowder said. “I’m just trying to sharpen that up on that end.”
The 6-foot-6 Crowder will have plenty of people in his corner during this process, but he said Marquette coach Buzz Williams and former Marquette alums in the NBA have reached out to him as well.
Williams, who requested Crowder call him when he landed in Florida last Friday, has played a vital rose in his success.
“He knows how to calm me down and to be patient,” Crowder said. “He has always been a dad away from home, and he’s one of the great stress relievers if I need to talk to him about something or need advice.”
Wesley Matthews, Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler have all reached out to Crowder as well, offering advice from their own pre-draft experiences.
Butler made a visit to Milwaukee last week, where he and Crowder spoke. Matthews, the only of the three who was not drafted, told Crowder to continue working on the same skills that got him to his current position.
“He reached out and told me once I get to work outs to just keep doing what I’ve been doing, do what I hang my hat on,” Crowder said. “Every guy has skill, can make shots and defend, but every guy doesn’t work hard each and every play.”
The business side of the decision-making at the next level has been a surprise to Crowder, but he received some close help in choosing his agent.
Crowder signed with Glenn Schwartzman of Alliance Management in Miami, the same agency his father hired during his NBA playing days and overseas.
“He was there when I was born, and he helped my dad out when he played at the next level, coming out of college,” Crowder said. “He and I have a great history and relationship, so it was a no-brainer.”
Crowder said his father’s past experiences has been a great help in dealing with the business aspect, while he focuses on improving his game for the NBA.
With his incomparable work ethic, words of wisdom from Williams and Matthews and unique skill set, Crowder said he is ready to prove he can play at the next level.
“There aren’t many guys who can do the things I do,” Crowder said. ” I’m trying to sharpen up each tool I have to be a guy the world has never seen before.”