Timing right for Jason Crowe's Waikato return
Jason Crowe has spent the last two years playing basketball in South America and Europe, but the Waikato Pistons' statistical standout of 2008 is back in Hamilton ready to fire.
Crowe arrived in New Zealand yesterday ready to do whatever it takes to help the Pistons win the National Basketball League. He replaces fellow American Sylvester Seay, who has returned home.
As long as he gets a clearance, the US guard will suit up for the Pistons tomorrow night at Hamilton Boys' High School gym against the Wellington Saints and will be joined by two of their three members of the triumphant Breakers squad – Alex Pledger and BJ Anthony. A heel injury to Australian NBL finals MVP Thomas Abercrombie means there is only a slim chance he will play.
Crowe averaged 21.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and a league-leading 8.3 assists a game during the 2008 NZ NBL season and had 26 points and nine assists in the first final as they swept the Saints in two games to win the title.
He has harboured a desire to return to New Zealand and was keen to hook up with Pistons manager John Davey, whom he described as the best manager he had ever played for, and current head coach Dean Vickerman.
Crowe played for the Breakers on trial in a pre-season tournament in China under Vickerman's coaching last August and had he made the final squad would have returned to the Pistons earlier, but the Breakers instead decided to re-sign Kevin Braswell.
But the timing was right when his agent got a call from Davey last week.
"I actually was finishing up my season in Europe [Bulgaria] and was headed home when I found out that coach Dean and John were keen on having me back," Crowe said yesterday after arriving in Hamilton.
"I was dying to come back and work for John and play for Dean, so it's a good opportunity."
The experience playing in China under Vickerman, who is an assistant coach with the Breakers, had been invaluable.
"We got to know each other and to play with him and see his systems was great. I really like his systems."
For Crowe to remain here longer term would probably require him to be picked up by an ANBL side to make it financially viable.
While the Pistons look strong on paper with the return of Crowe to team up with fellow American guard Jerry Smith and their Breakers, he said teams did not gel automatically.
"Obviously we have to gel pretty quickly and what I've seen of the league it's gotten much stronger as a whole."
Crowe sees himself as a natural point guard and said he was likely to be used in a dual point-guard system with Smith and now saw himself as more of a mature veteran who knew how to win.
"When I was here before I had an outstanding statistical season, because that was what was required, but I think with this group right here if I can just be a steady hand that will serve us well."
The unbeaten Saints will also be boosted in tomorrow night's televised game by the return of Breakers Corey Webster and Leon Henry, although Cairns Taipans point guard Lindsay Tait is an unlikely starter due to a shoulder injury.