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Drew Crawford, another kid from Evanston like Coach Peterson and the Great Mason Rocca


Evanston, Illinois, is a city that means a lot to Olimpia. It is the place where Dan Peterson was born and raised. It is the place where Mason Rocca was born and raised. Drew Crawford is in good company. Great, actually. He was born in Evanston and lived there for the first three years of his life, then the family moved a few miles away, in Naperville, where he attended high school. But when it was time to choose which college to attend, just like Peterson did, he opted for Northwestern, right there in Evanston, practically on the shore of Lake Michigan. Twenty miles south, still on the lake, there is the home of the Chicago Bulls, the house that Michael Jordan built. Downtown Chicago is even closer. “Growing up in Chicago during the Bulls dynasty, when they won their championships, I had the chance to see the greatest players up close, the best teams, the most important games up close,” he says.

He had an advantage: his dad, Danny from 1984 to 2017 was an NBA referee. He had started officiating basketball games in his free time, then he was a referee on the side, eventually he found himself refereeing at the college level and was finally recruited by the NBA. When Crawford was five, his father had been refereeing in the NBA for ten seasons. Drew saw Michael Jordan’s Bulls win three championships in a row, between 1996 and 1998. By then he already had a recurring dream: to become a professional basketball player. “My father’s presence was of great benefit – he says – he made me discover the game as a child, he exposed me to basketball and in Chicago I witnessed the Bulls championship runs, but if I had chosen to do something else, golfing maybe, he would have supported me anyway. He is my model.”

Dan Crawford has officiated in the NBA for 27 years, he officiated at least one game in 23 consecutive NBA finals, the last one in 2017, when he decided to retire. A survey among selected NBA players identified him at the time as the best referee in the league. He’s a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer: we could argue that Dan Crawford’s been the greatest referee in the NBA history, certainly one of the most consistent at the highest level.

Bill Carmody is the coach who recruited Drew Crawford in Naperville and brought him to Northwestern. Drew played on two teams who won at least twenty games, averaged 16.1 points in one season, then suffered an injury to his shoulder and played only 10 games in 2012/13. At that point they granted him an extra year of eligibility, but since he graduated, according to the NCAA rules he was basically a free agent. He could choose to transfer, play immediately and spend his last college year on the best possible team. Missouri wanted him, Marquette was very interested. In addition, the coach who had recruited him, Carmody, had been fired. Still, Crawford decided to remain loyal to the end: Chris Collins, son of the great NBA player and also Bulls coach Doug Collins, took over the reins of Northwestern. Crawford became the second-best scorer in the history of the university.

He had 12 pre-draft workouts with 12 NBA teams during the summer of 2014. Orlando signed him to the veteran camp then moved him to the G-League. With the Erie Bayhawks, Crawford averaged 16.0 points per game and 6.1 rebounds. The following summer, he ended up on the New Orleans Pelicans’ radar, but ultimately preferred to move to Europe. Moving from one league to another, he passed through Israel, and Germany before emerging in Cremona. He was the Final Eight MVP, the regular season MVP in the best season ever for Vanoli. This year he was in Ganziantep in Turkey. “I have never played in the EuroLeague before coming to Milan, but I have played against EuroLeague teams since my first year overseas, including Milan. I feel ready. Each team is made differently and asks you for different things, but what everyone wants is effort, attention to detail, concentration and playing within a team concept,” he explains.