By Tim Chambers
Milligan College basically walked out the back door to nab one of East Tennessee’s best post players on Wednesday afternoon in Johnson City. University High standout center John Crowe cast his lot with the Buffaloes, with family and friends looking on.
The 6-5 All-Watauga Valley Conference player was a force to reckoned with during the 2011-12 campaign after sitting out nearly all of his junior season with a torn ACL.
Crowe recording double-doubles was rather commonplace this past season. It was games like his 21-point, 16-rebound effort (vs. Unaka) in the District 1-A tournament back in February that caught the eye of Milligan head coach Bill Robinson.
“John’s improvement from his injury to now has been incredible,” said Robinson. “He’s basically missed a whole season with the injury and it was hard to project how he would come back. But he did, and obviously became an important piece to their team this year. We’re more excited about the future because we feel like his best basketball is just ahead. We feel like we got a steal.”
Crowe said that Milligan had all the things he was looking for as a student athlete.
“I was looking for somewhere that could challenge me in the liberal arts education program,” said Crowe. “Milligan offered that plus a good basketball program. I’m excited about the opportunity to sign with them because this is where I want to be.”
It was the play of Crowe that allowed UH to play at a high level throughout the season. His high school head coach, Justin Penley, knows the type of player that the Buffaloes are getting.
“What’s so special about John is the fine young man and player he has become,” said Penley. “He’s an excellent student and a great basketball player, but a much better person. He’s going into a program that I think is the right fit for him. He’ll continue to grow and mature as a player because he missed his junior season, but he didn’t let that get him down. He came back his senior year a much better player because of his hard work and rehab. When John gets around good players and gets involved in their strength and conditioning programs, he’ll elevate his play to an even higher level.”
Robinson feels the same way about his new recruit.
“He’ll get bigger and stronger and with that comes confidence,” said Robinson. “He’ll be challenged in the classroom and on the court, but he’ll help us off the court as well because he’s a great kid. We look for him to develop and play a role for us like Tyler DeVault did. He’s a good student athlete that we’re happy to sign. I feel like Milligan will be a great fit for him.”
Crowe knows that the college game will be much different that the high school one. He said that sitting out his junior season gave him a chance to focus on some areas of the game that has made him a better player.
“It was hard to watch but I was able to view the game a lot better,” he said. “It gave me a better understanding as to how to approach the game and what to look for out on the floor. I also learned to shoot well with both hands because I was on crutches and couldn’t run. My shot got a whole lot better because of that.”
Crowe is the son of state senator Rusty and Sarah Crowe — and has a sister, Katie. He said all of them, in addition to Penley, have had a big impact on his life.
The future Buffalo likes the ideal of playing for Coach Robinson.
“I want to be a part of some good teams and work really hard to contribute,” Crowe said. “I also want to excel in the classroom. I look forward to playing for Coach Robinson because he’s a good coach with great character — much like Coach Penley. I can’t wait to get started.”