The Kid: Crockett Closing In On Elite Company|
February 6, 2014
Most people endure change over a five-year period, but for senior Jaye Crockett, he has seen people come and go in what he calls his Red Raider Family.
During his five seasons at Texas Tech, Crockett has welcomed 45 teammates into his Red Raider Family. After redshirting in 2009-10, he has played for four head coaches in four years -- Pat Knight (2010-11), Billy Gillispie (2011-12), Chris Walker (2012-13) and Tubby Smith (2013-14).
"I always felt like Texas Tech was the place for me," Crockett said. "I have never really thought about leaving at all, even with all of the coaching changes. It was tough. I kind of had thoughts about transferring somewhere, but in the end, I knew that this is just like my home. I grew up not being a quitter. I just grew up not being a quitter. It was tough changing (coaches) every year.
"I remember one year I was running track and I wanted to quit. My mom said, `We don't quit. It is not what our family does.' I hated it. I got last place all of the time because I was slow, but I was raised that you cannot quit."
As each season has come to a close, he has seen his production improve. As a freshman, Crockett averaged 4.8 points and nearly doubled that total to 8.8 as a sophomore. As a junior, he led Texas Tech with 11.9 points per game and is averaging a team-best 14.3 points per game this season.
His efforts have made this native of Clovis, N.M., the 36th member of Texas Tech's 1,000-Point Club. He also became the 13th Red Raider to reach 1,000 points and 600 rebounds for his career. At his current pace, Crockett should crack the Top 25 all-time leading scorers at Texas Tech.
He is on pace to become just the fifth Red Raider to record 1,000 points, 600 rebounds, 100 steals and 100 assists. He would join a list that includes Andre Emmett (2001-04), Jason Sasser (1993-96), Martin Zeno (2005-08) and Will Flemons (1990-93).
"I have never really paid much attention to my stats and how much I have had at the end of each year," Crockett added. "Don't get me wrong, I love scoring and getting rebounds, but the individual stuff has not been my goal. I remember getting the media guide when they were recruiting me and seeing all the players that had gone to Tech. I never thought I would have my picture in there or being in there. It is kind of cool."
Crockett committed to Texas Tech as a junior at Clovis (N.M.) High School. He chose the Red Raiders over New Mexico and Nebraska. Crockett was a two-time first team All-State selection and led the Wildcats to the state finals his junior season. He left Clovis as the second leading scorer in program history, falling one point short of former Red Raider Bubba Jennings' record.
"I really didn't think I was going to go anywhere. Before me, the last player from Clovis to go somewhere was coach Jennings and that was 30 years ago. So, when coach Jennings came to visit that was special," said Crockett.
Crockett arrived at Texas Tech in the summer of 2009 and realized that college basketball was not the same as in high school.
"It was real relaxed but it was a reality check for sure, when I realized how good the players were and how serious I would have to take basketball. It wasn't a game anymore. It became a job and quit being a game for me," said Crockett. "Through all of this, I realized how coaches can get fired, because they depend on us to make sure their families eat and they have a job. It is real serious in that aspect.
After redshirting his first season, Crockett became a key contributor during that redshirt freshman season.
"My second game we played my freshman year against North Texas, I felt like I had 30. It was only 14, but it felt like a lot more. It was the first time where I felt like the game was slowing down for me."
Crockett played in all 32 games his freshman season, averaging 4.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game. He reached double figures four times and notched is first career double-double against Delaware State with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
But then Knight was dismissed and Texas Tech hired Billy Gillispie, who was known for turning programs around. Gillispie had engineered the largest turnaround in NCAA history after following up a 6-24 season at UTEP with a 24-8 mark the next season. He also led Texas A&M to its largest single-season turnaround in program history, leading the Aggies to the postseason in his first year on the job.
"When coach Gillispie got here I knew he was known for winning and turning programs around, but I was also told he would work you hard and get the best out of you and he did," said Crockett. "He had the whole team doing things that we didn't think we could do. He would get you through it mentally. The one thing I take away from him is being mentally tough. He prepared me to not only be mentally tough on the court, but he got me mentally tough for life. He could get you to do things that you thought you couldn't do."
Despite having a sports hernia for the entire season and missing the season opener, Crockett raised his scoring average to 8.8 points per game and picked up 5.7 boards per game.
After 18 months on the job, Gillispie resigned citing health reasons. That gave way to Chris Walker, who had been the associate head coach, to run the program.
"The year with coach Walker really went by like a blur," Crocket said. "I realized that we had to be a family. I really feel like the main focus of my junior year was JT (Jordan Tolbert). He had just lost his dad. I put a lot of time into just trying to be there for him, so that he was good. They wanted me to start, because JT was struggling, but I told them I would prefer to come off the bench. I knew that JT would come back and be best once his mind was good. Taking him out of the starting lineup and the fact that he lost his dad would kill him for the whole season. If what happened to JT had happened to me, I would have been devastated. Basketball would have been the last thing I cared about. What that year taught me was being a family and taking care of the people that need you."
At the end of the season, Crockett had netted a team-best 11.9 points and 6.5 rebounds a night. His efforts landed him College Hoops Daily Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year. He also earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors and was named Academic All-Big 12.
At season's end, Walker was not retained and the Red Raiders found a new head coach in Tubby Smith. After 22 seasons, Smith came to Texas Tech with an impressive resume. Smith had compiled 19 20-win seasons, 17 NCAA Tournaments and 511 career victories.
"I really respect how coach Smith treats people," said Crockett. "Even when we get on airplanes, he will get out of people's way. Even though he is Tubby Smith, he is level-headed. He treats everyone with the same level of respect. I think he is a good example of how a man should be."
Even with the turnover, Crockett focused on getting better on the court. After a conversation with Smith, Crockett began working on the fundamentals.
"My dad wrote down what I needed to do this past summer in order to get better. I was getting up 500 to 1,000 shots a day. I used to count the shots, but then I started to only count the makes. I just started focusing on getting makes," said Crockett.
Smith was converting this Sixth Man, who played power forward, into a small forward in order to have Crockett and Tolbert on the court at the same time.
"Every game I try to grow as a player and get better. I try to focus on getting someone on the team better," added Crocket. "Basketball teaches you how to be a leader in life. One day I am going to have a family and I am going to have to be a leader. I have to learn to stay composed and level-headed, because people are counting on you. Basketball is the greatest teacher of that. It is a game of runs and you can get down. You can tuck your tail and run or stay composed and keep fighting. That is how you have to be in life."
Crockett's efforts have paid off for the Red Raiders, as he is averaging a career-best 14.3 points and 6.2 rebounds-per-game this season. He has also raised both his shooting percentage and his free throw percentage. Crockett currently leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 56 percent.
"I wish I had had the opportunity to play for four seasons for coach Smith. He is a remarkable coach and teacher. He has taught me so much in a short time. I love playing for him," Crockett said.
With everything that has happened, Crockett has earned a bachelor's degree in communications and is on pace to graduate with a master's degree this summer.
Now all that is left for the senior is the road that lies before him. It shouldn't be that hard at all considering the path he has been on to get here.