West Aurora's Crutcher soars to new heights

  • West Aurora's Jared Crutcher, right, is the honorary captain of the Fox Valley All-Area Boys Basketball Team.

      West Aurora's Jared Crutcher, right, is the honorary captain of the Fox Valley All-Area Boys Basketball Team. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/1/2018 1:43 PM

Most Michael Jordan fans owned the poster in the 1990s.

It was His Airness, posing in black and white, arms outstretched like a plane. Above Jordan's likeness was one word: Wings.

 

West Aurora forward Jared Crutcher mimicked the iconic pose in a photo two years ago when he was a member of the sophomore team. It seemed fitting considering the lifelong Aurora resident had sprouted in less than a year from 5-feet, 11 inches to 6-foot-3 on his way to 6-5.

West Aurora assistant sophomore coach John Giles saw the picture and dubbed Crutcher "The Condor" due to his unusually long reach. The nickname stuck. West Aurora public address announcer Reed Vostal even incorporated it when introducing Crutcher at home games this year.

"I thought it was OK at first but it's grown on me," Crutcher said with a laugh.

The moniker isn't far fetched. California condors have wingspans of 9.5 feet, according to the Audubon Society. Last summer Crutcher was measured fingertip to fingertip at 7 feet, 2 inches.

Crutcher's length, combined with his overall athleticism and inner drive, make the senior a force on both ends of the floor for the two-time Upstate Eight Valley champs.

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Offensively, the Loras College recruit entered the postseason averaging 13.2 points and a team-leading 8.8 rebounds per game, including 4.1 offensive rebounds. He shoots 56 percent from the field (138 of 245), partly due to the number of second-chance scoring opportunities he creates.

Defensively, Crutcher has developed into West Aurora's most-intimidating rim protector since Shaun Pruitt. He blocked 82 shots, most rejected at high velocity.

"Opponents will be driving against him and they shoot right away because he's right there and they've learned to get it up quick or Jared is going to send it five rows deep," West Aurora coach Brian Johnson said.

"He's up there with the best," St. Charles East coach Patrick Woods said of Crutcher's shot blocking.

For his performance at both ends of the floor, the son of Sedrick and Kristin Crutcher has been named honorary captain of the 2017-18 Daily Herald Fox Valley All-Area Boys Basketball Team.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

West Aurora's best post defender victimizes unsuspecting shooters in two ways.

"A lot of his blocks come from help (defense) but a lot come from just guarding in the post," Johnson said. "When his man has the ball, Jared is able to stay straight up. He has a knack for reading shots and blocking shots without getting into foul trouble. That's a big thing."

Crutcher's 13.2-point scoring average is somewhat remarkable since the Blackhawks rarely run plays designed specifically for him. The offense arguably works best when the ball runs through him and back out to the perimeter, where Crutcher's UEC Valley co-player of the year, Camron Donatlan, lurks. However, most of Crutcher's points are derived from his sheer will to dominate the boards.

"It is really an impossible feat to coach against someone who beats you because of his hustle and energy level," said Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith, whose Hawks lost to West Aurora twice. "It's hard to stop guys that are like that as opposed to a guy who is a really good shooter or can drive to the basket. Jared affects the game in so many different ways that even if you stop him from scoring the basketball, he still can affect the game defensively, blocking shots, grabbing rebounds. It's hard to game plan for a guy who ends the night with 12 points and the only baskets he got were on the offensive glass."

Crutcher rarely comes out of games because he is in great physical condition, Johnson said. The competitor rarely loses a sprint in practice, according to his coach.

That competitive spirit drove Crutcher to improve last summer, whether he was playing for Mercury Elite or attending West Aurora camps or hitting the weight room. He returned a better player.

"He honed his skills and got stronger," Johnson said. "His touch around the rim got better and he really developed his skills from last year. Every area of his game has gotten better."

Basketball isn't over for Crutcher by a long shot. He will continue his career at the college level while studying engineering with an eye toward becoming an architect.

First, he hopes to play two more weeks of high school basketball for a team that enters Friday's Class 4A Plainfield South regional title game against Andrew with a 22-4 record.

"This year has been great because I've known all these guys since elementary and middle school," Crutcher said. "We've had great chemistry and good communication ever since. They make me better and I make them better. We have a good time racking up wins and we love each other. Every one of them, even our bench, we all take care of each other and we've looked out for each other since day one.

"We've won (14) in a row and we haven't lost since Dec. 20. We're trying not to lose in 2018. Our plan is to go all the way."

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