Young coach making most of chances with Nuggets

Otago Nuggets assistant coach Keegan Crawford takes a break from training at the Edgar Centre...
Otago Nuggets assistant coach Keegan Crawford takes a break from training at the Edgar Centre yesterday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Keegan Crawford is one to make the most of an opportunity.

Perhaps that explains the 26-year-old’s rapid rise through the coaching ranks.

It also explains how a short-term injury in 2017, while playing in a Perth under-20 club league, set off a chain of events that led him to be the Otago Nuggets assistant coach.

Crawford had been hanging around the arena every day while injured, when his coach said an under-11 team needed a coach for a coming tournament.

"I thought I’m not doing anything else," he said.

"I coached that team and absolutely loved it. From then on my perspective around basketball changed and I just wanted to be a coach.

"It’s taken me well so far."

A development job at Basketball Western Australia followed, before a year as an assistant coach in Canadian college basketball.

He returned to a job at Basketball WA, before linking with the Rockingham Flames women’s team in the NBL 1 — the league below the Australian NBL.

The next season he became the lead assistant coach at the WNBL’s Perth Lynx, while interning for the Perth Wildcats as a video co-ordinator for two years.

Last season he joined the Wildcats on a fulltime basis, as the team’s third assistant coach.

When the team’s owner, SEN, bought the Nuggets, it wanted to increase the synergy between the two teams and see where it could add value.

At the same time it gave Crawford an opportunity to apply much of what he had learnt with the Wildcats.

He jumped at the opportunity and was loving it so far.

Certainly it has been an impressive progression for someone who started coaching just five years ago.

Perhaps it is an indicator of the quality he has brought across the Tasman with him, particularly in the video analysis space.

"My journey’s just been about relishing any opportunity I get and making the most of it," he said.

"That’s where I am now and where I continue to want to go.

". . . I think my foot in the door at most coaching opportunities has been through video and film.

"Getting upskilled in that earlier in my career under Ryan Patrick, one of my mentors, was a really a smart decision for me.

"I’ve been able to jump into each opportunity with an analytics and film-based mindset.

"I’m trying now to get better at, and explore my ability, to develop relationships with the players, being in the trenches everyday.

‘I like working out with the guys, player development."

Originally from California, Crawford grew up attending Los Angeles Lakers games with his father, who was a big basketball fan.

The family moved to Australia, his mother’s homeland, when he was about 11.

He has long-term ambitions of being involved in the Australian national programme, while also potentially returning home to coach in the NBA.

However, he felt he had achieved his success so far through being focused on his current opportunities.

He was impressed with what he had seen from the Nuggets and the league so far, praising the local contingent as much as the imports.

They face a Nelson Giants team that has perhaps surprised a few pundits with four wins from six games to start with.

That includes a win over the Nuggets on opening night — although Otago was without its imports.

Crawford felt they were a well-drilled team on both ends of the floor.

In Trey Mourning it has one of the league’s stars, while backcourt duo Jarrod West and Alex McNaught provided ball pressure.

Nuggets point guard Darcy Knox has a chance of making his return from a lengthy illness layoff, while fellow point guard Joe Ahie’s status has been listed as questionable.

NBL

Edgar Centre, tonight, 7.30pm

Nuggets: Sam Timmins, Todd Withers, Keith Williams, Tahjere McCall, Josh Aitcheson, Nikau McCullough, Matthew Bardsley, Jack Andrew, Joe Ahie, Darcy Knox, Robbie Coman, Max Pearce.

Giants: Trey Mourning, Jarrod West, Sam Thompson, Sam Dempster, Nic Trathen, Jordan Schwalger, Riley Bensemann, Tyler Marsh.

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