Top basketball players of the century: Boys No. 5, Drew Crawford of Naperville Central
Editors note: The Daily Herald is counting down the Top Ten boys and girls basketball players of the century in our coverage area. We continue today with No. 5 -- Drew Crawford of Naperville Central and Lindsay Schrader of Bartlett.
Drew Crawford never met an assist he didn't like.
Perhaps the best boys basketball player in Naperville Central history was unselfish to a fault, to the point where he sometimes needed a push to shoot more. As good as Crawford was, what set him apart was his ability to make teammates better.
"Even his teammates saw that he should be shooting more," said Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer. "But he wanted everyone to be involved. It wasn't about him. It was about making everyone else better."
Don't be too distracted by Crawford's unselfish play. The 2009 Naperville Central graduate still became the program's all-time leading scorer with more than 1,500 points in a three-year varsity span.
He was twice named the DuPage Valley Conference player of the year while carrying the Redhawks to consecutive DVC titles. A steady climb culminated in Crawford averaging 24 points and 9 rebounds his senior year.
"There'd be times you'd look at the scoreboard at halftime and Drew wold have 20 points," Kramer said. "And you'd wonder, 'How did he do that?'"
Crawford is the son of retired NBA referee Danny Crawford, who brought Drew to stadiums around the country to see the world's greatest players up close. It didn't take long for Drew to develop a love of the game.
After Crawford left Naperville Central he went to Northwestern and earned Big 10 freshman of the year honors. Even though a shoulder injury limited Crawford to only 10 games in 2013, he still became the Wildcats' second-leading all-time scorer with 1,920 points.
Undrafted, Crawford played three seasons in the NBA summer league but he's settled into a career in Europe. Last season he was named the Italian League's Most Valuable Player after averaging 17.7 points for Vanoli Cremona.
He played in Turkey last summer, and returned to Italy for the EuroLeague season until it was shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Far away from home and a decade removed from his high-school days, Crawford remains fondly remembered at Naperville Central.
"Not only a great player but even a better person," Kramer said. "Just a joy to coach."