Star sophomore forward keying fast start for UB men’s basketball team By Patrick Broadwater Photos by Paul Hokanson/UB
A big offseason for Javon McCrea has translated into a fast start for the University at Buffalo men’s basketball team.
The Bulls have been victorious in sixteen of their first twenty three games this season, and can point to a number of key factors to their success:
- A balanced scoring attack that relies on the outside shooting of senior guard Zach Filzen (averaging 16.0 points and four 3-pointers per game) and the deft touch of UB’s big men, including senior Mitchell Watt (14.0 ppg).
- Strong team defense, which is allowing a tad less than 64 points per game .
- And, buckets of quality minutes from their bench, including big contributions from
- A balanced scoring attack that relies on the outside shooting of senior guard Zach Filzen (averaging 16.0 points and four 3-pointers per game) and the deft touch of UB’s big men, including senior Mitchell Watt (14.0 ppg). Strong team defense, which is allowing a tad less than 64 points per game. And, buckets of quality minutes from their bench, including big contributions from senior Titus Robinson and junior Tony Watson.
And then, there’s the play of McCrea.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore forward has been a dominant figure for the Bulls this season, averaging team highs in points (16.8 ppg) and rebounds (8.6 rpg), while also handing out 2.2 assists per game and shooting nearly 62 percent from the floor. His performance this season builds upon an eventful offseason that included an opportunity to compete for a spot on USA Basketball’s U-19 team. McCrea had an impressive camp and was the last player cut from that squad, a fact not forgotten by those who assemble preseason previews and rankings. McCrea was named one of the top 100 players in the nation (ranking at No. 91) by CBSsports.com and was one of five players poised to have a breakout season in 2011-12, according to Sports Illustrated.
“It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like my hard work has paid off,” said McCrea, 19, who played scholastically for Newark High, a mid-sized school east of Rochester. “I know I still got more to go. I can work harder. So, that’s what pushes me. “
“I think he was always confident, but I’m sure it gave him a little more confidence,” Bulls head coach Reggie Witherspoon said of McCrea’s strong showing at the USA Basketball camp. “More than anything else, I think it validated what he thought, what he believes. You’ve got this ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ is, and you want to take it to another level and see if it works there. You know it works for you where you are, but will it work there? I think in his mind, it validated his belief that it would.”
Not that there were too many questions about McCrea after his stellar freshman season at UB. The Mid-American Conference (MAC) Freshman of the Year, McCrea excelled as the Bulls’ sixth man last year, averaging 11.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game (eighth in the conference). But, as McCrea continues to mature, so does his game. He’s quickly evolving into an elite player.
“He’s the type of player than can – within the course of a game – do a couple of things that will make you think ‘Did I just see that? Did he really just do that?’ It really is special,” Witherspoon said. “What’s really good about it is that he’s a humble kid and he’s humorous. He’s someone who knows how to make a room laugh. In terms of being a teammate, his teammates appreciate him, and he’s easy to get along with.”
And why not? Like McCrea, the Bulls are looking to make the leap to the next level. After tough non-conference games at BYU and Temple, UB will find out where it stands when it opens MAC play at home against conference powerhouse Kent State on Jan. 7.
“That will be one of a number of tests for us,” Witherspoon said. “After a while you get numb to it. The good thing is you have to take it one game at a time, because they’re all too good to overlook. And once you get in conference play, you have to do that, too.”
“I think we’re doing good, and we’re progressing each game,” McCrea said. “We’re definitely going to win the MAC. It’s a definite.”!