Grin and Bear It

by Jake Fischer / @JakeLFischer

Allen Crabbe grimaced as he went through drills in East Rutherford, NJ, during a pre-Draft workout for the Brooklyn Nets. The 2013 NBA Draft prospect’s shots were falling, but a nagging pain was piercing his right foot. He had developed tendonitis, and his foot was enflamed. Crabbe would go on to cancel four workouts and turn down several offers.

It was the first true roadblock in his basketball career.

Growing up in the basketball-rich city of Los Angeles, Crabbe was able to develop into a prep star at Price High School. His recruiting process was easy, committing to be a Golden Bear during his junior season. It was so early into the process he had only received three other offers from Oregon State, Utah and Nevada.

“Cal wasn’t always my first option, but it ended up being a great fit for me,” Crabbe says. “I had great success there, so I definitely don’t have any complaints with my decision. It had always been my dream to play for the NBA and I thought Coach Montgomery would be great at developing me for that next level.”

With his college decision already taken care of, Crabbe was able to catapult into the national spotlight. He was named the 2010 Gatorade Player of the Year, a Parade All-American, Wooden Award winner and the ESPN California State Player of the Year.

Upon arriving at Berkley, it was more smooth sailing for Crabbe. He immediately played 33.8 minutes per game and was the team’s third-leading scorer in his freshman ’10-11 campaign. Montgomery had full confidence in his rookie shooting guard.

“If you’re a good player, you’re going to have lots of opportunities,” says Montgomery, a former head coach of the Golden State Warriors. “There was an opportunity for him to succeed. He has a natural gift to shoot the ball.”

Crabbe continued to progress each year, as his statistical production improved each season, his post-season awards also grew more prestigious. He was named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, then first-team All-Pac 12 following his sophomore season in ’11-12 and Pac-12 Player of the Year after his junior season in ’12-13.

“As he grew and as he got stronger in the weight room, he just got better every year,” Montgomery says. “He became a dominant player. We just urged him to work on his mid-range, put the ball on the floor more and he did that.”

With years of momentum and success still forging him forward, Crabbe ultimately decided to forgo his senior year at Cal and enter his name in the NBA Draft.

“I felt like I did what I had to do at the college level already,” Crabbe says. “I felt confident I was able to make the jump and I just stuck with it. I’ve put in the work to get to this point and I just feel that I’m in the right place at the right time.”

Then at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Crabbe’s good fortunes continued. His shot was falling from everywhere and scouts were talking about him as a top-20 pick.

Fueled by his positive feedback, Crabbe hit the workout tour.  He had five solid workouts before having to shut it down in Jersey while in his Nets workout on June 11. He would go on to cancel workouts with the Celtics, Bucks, Clippers and Jazz. At this stage of his career, how in the world would he handle his first adversity in his basketball life?

“I’ve just tried to stay positive and get myself in the best position to be back as soon as possible,” Crabbe says. “I’ll definitely be ready for Summer League, we’ve been working really hard to get back at it. All I really needed was some orthotics in my shoes, so I’ll be ready to go.”

His positive mindset and optimism has propelled him to maintain his high stock throughout the pre-Draft process. He was even able to reschedule his missed workout with Milwaukee and go through some light shooting drills. If everything else in your career had gone near-perfectly, you’d be confident too.

“It’s been an exciting process just getting to travel around and visit different cities,” Crabbe says. “I’m just excited to see what my next step is going to be and for my dream to come true.”

Montgomery thinks Crabbe’s role at the next level will likely be spreading opposing defenses.

“He’s got an NBA skill,” the four-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year says. “You have to have an NBA skill or just be a great, great player—and there aren’t many of those—to be successful in the NBA. He can really shoot the ball at an elite level. Teams are starting to value shooters and he’s going to space the floor really well.”

Getting drafted will be just the next step in a decorated and flawless career. Considering he’s been successful in every facet of the game throughout his entire life, there wasn’t a high likelihood a little foot injury would prevent Allen Crabbe from making the most of just another opportunity in the basketball world.