Crutcher (cover photo) was head coach Anthony Grant’s first commitment for the 2017 class. He’s been a contributor ever since. Photo taken by Griffin Quinn
Sports Staff Writer
Dayton basketball has been making headlines all season long, in large part due to the contributions of one redshirt sophomore forward Obi Toppin. His insane athleticism, that has caught the attention of the basketball world, pairs with his carefree attitude, making him one of college basketball’s most unique stars.
While Obi deserves the acclamation, there are other pieces of the Flyers that have been instrumental in the team’s meteoric rise. One of these pieces is head coach Anthony Grant’s first Dayton recruit, junior guard Jalen Crutcher.
Crutcher, from Memphis, signed with Dayton in May of 2017 as Grant’s first commitment for the 2017 class. He drew the attention of other mid-major schools like DePaul and Chattanooga, but received no offers from any team in “power five” conferences.
In his freshman year, Crutcher proved himself as the starting point guard. He averaged 9.2 points and 4.4 assists per game, both impressive numbers for any true freshman playing at the D-1 level. He was accompanied by fellow freshman Jordan Davis, who eventually transferred from Dayton.
During his sophomore campaign, Crutcher improved in almost every category. He established himself as both a scorer and distributor. Paired with a redshirted Toppin, the duo became clinical on the offensive end. Crutcher was putting up 13.2 points, 5.7 assists and four rebounds per game while his associate, Obi, was churning out consistent 15 and five games. The twosome, as we now know, was only scratching the surface of its potential.
Flyer fans knew early on that Crutcher would one day lead the team, the question was how soon it would be. His freshman campaign established him as Dayton’s most comfortable ball handler, but he has only improved his game since then. His points-per-game have gone up every year that he has played, as well as his 3-point, free-throw, and field goal percentages.
Crutcher’s ball security has remained constantly great at UD. He has averaged only about two turnovers per game in his career, something that hasn’t faltered during his time in Dayton. For reference, Ja Morant, one of college basketball’s best point guards from the previous season and likely this year’s NBA rookie of the year, averaged 5.2 turnovers per game last year.
Although Crutcher hasn’t been Dayton’s marquee player this season, he has had his fair share of colossal moments. Taking on St. Louis on the road, Crutcher made, what is so far, the biggest shot of Dayton’s season. The Flyers were sluggish and flat the whole game, but they were able to hold the game close enough to go into overtime. Down a point in OT with six seconds remaining, Crutcher sprinted down the court (with the help of a fantastic screen by Obi) and sunk a cold-blooded three to break the hearts of every SLU fan in the building. This capped off a 21-point night for the junior point guard.
In an early season tournament, an unranked Dayton faced off against the nation’s fourth ranked team, the Kansas Jayhawks. In the final seconds of regulation, Crutcher nailed a three from a step inside the logo to send the game into overtime. Although Dayton would eventually go on to lose the game, Crutcher was impressive in the 41 minutes that he played. He had 12 points and eight assists. Along with his numbers, he was solely responsible for handling Kansas’ rugged defense for much of the night due to a few early fouls committed by transfer guard Rodney Chatman.
Speaking of Chatman, he has been a heaven-sent addition for the Flyers this year. He takes some of the ball-handling duty from Crutcher, and is able to shut down most assignments he is daunted with. Chatman and Crutcher are a deadly backcourt duo, arguably one of the strongest guard duos in the country.
Crutcher brings a refreshing style to college basketball that is not always seen on successful teams. While he doesn’t have the athleticism of a Russell Westbrook-type or the shiftiness of a Kyrie Irving-type, his poise and control stand out among others. Crutcher’s confidence is unwavering, his lead-by-example guidance is perplexing and his clutch gene is preposterous. Don’t overlook one of college basketball’s most dependable players.