In his fourth season as a starter Kyle Crocker is developing into the player the Brainerd Warriors knew he would be as a senior.
In his last three games Crocker has played some of the most complete basketball of his career, totaling 20 points against Rocori, 26 against Willmar and 24 against St. Cloud Apollo. Against Willmar and Apollo, he made 17 of 29 shots, was 9 of 14 from 3-point, and made all seven of his free throws.
"I'm shooting the ball really well right now," Crocker said. "The guys are finding me when I'm open, and I'm knocking down the shots."
Crocker isn't just scoring. In the season's first eight games he had 32 assists and 24 rebounds.
"I think he's figuring it out," Warriors coach Wade Haapajoki said. "At Apollo he shot the ball one time, came over to me, and he usually never says a word, and said, 'Coach, was that a good shot?' and I said, 'What do you think?' and he said, 'I think forced it,' and I said, 'Yep, you did.' Our philosophy is to get a good shot.
"He's getting 4-5 rebounds per game, 3-4 assists, his turnovers are almost less than one a game, that's great stuff for us."
Defense is one of the many aspects of the game Crocker is working on and is improving.
"'Hop' has been doing a good job of making me play good defense, knowing where I need to be, keeping my guy in front of me," he said. "I'm definitely playing a lot harder defense than I've ever played."
The Warriors have begun applying a full-court press to force turnovers and convert them into points.
"We use our length to cause problems," Haapajoki said. "Kyle plays more the back level, with his vision and ability to anticipate, his defensive back mentality from football. His vision and ability to get a steal and adjust in our defense helps a lot. Physically, he's not the strongest kid, but his vision and ability to anticipate is top-notch."
Weight: 180 pounds
Other sports: Football, baseball
Career highlight: Playing football at Metrodome
Grade-point average: 3.3
Favorite subject: Math
Favorite food: Chicken
Favorite TV show: SportsCenter
Hobbies: Video games
Future plans: Attend University of Minnesota, play baseball
Favorite athlete: Deion Sanders
Parents: Mary and Bruce Crocker
Crocker, who will play baseball at the University of Minnesota in 2010-11, has floated between point guard, shooting guard and small forward but has thrived at each position.
"The last few games he's scored more points, making some shots," Haapajoki said. "Early in the season he wasn't and I think it was a combination of pressing and wanting to do well. He wants the season to go well. Lately, he's shown up and has been knocking shots down. He had six threes against Willmar and three against Apollo."
Haapajoki said Crocker, a captain with Aaron Pavek, has begun stepping up in the leadership department.
"It seems like he gets a quiet 20-24 points with us running the ball through the post," Haapajoki said. "That (leadership) dimension to his game is taking shape."
"I'm trying to become more of a leader," Crocker said. "Now I'm the oldest guy, finally."
Playing three sports, with baseball his forte, doesn't afford Crocker much time to practice on the hard court.
"It's hard to work on (basketball) in the summer," he said. "I don't really go to summer league stuff because I've got baseball games. Most of the time I spend in basketball is done during the season. Otherwise, I shoot in my driveway."
Other notable efforts:
• Evan Reese, swimming, won two events and was on a first-place relay against Rocori.
• Becky Walker and Kelsi Ring, gymnastics, each won two events against Alexandria.
• Reid Mimmack, hockey, made 21 saves in a shutout against Cloquet.
• Britton Murrey, diving, was first against Rocori and is unbeaten in four meets this season.
• Savannah Stone, Alpine skiing, won the girls' race in the St. Cloud Invite.
• Mitch McLain and Matt Pohlkamp, hockey, each had two goals against Bemidji.
• Tyler Schneider, swimming, won two events against Sartell.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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