Feb. 16, 2007
By Simit Shah – When Paul Hewitt watched Javaris Crittenton play for the first time as a high school freshman at nearby Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, the coach knew that the youngster fit the definition of a Georgia Tech point guard.
“I told Coach (Willie) Reese right then, `We’ve got to get this guy.’ Then I talked to his coach and found out what kind of student he was, and I knew that he was a Georgia Tech-type player,” Hewitt recalled.
Through the course of his high school career, Crittenton blossomed into one of the top prep players in the nation while leading his school to two state championships and two runner-up finishes. The lengthy list of accolades included being named Mr. Georgia Basketball and a berth on the McDonald’s all-America team. One recruiting service ranked him as the number one point guard and seventh-best player overall in the nation.
Of course, many of the top basketball programs began to court him, but during the recruiting process, Crittenton’s mother Sonya gave Hewitt some insight about her son’s earliest aspirations.
“When he in second grade, he had one of those paper plates where he drew himself in a Georgia Tech uniform wearing number 1,” said a smiling Hewitt. “I knew then that I had a good chance.”
While Crittenton drew interest far and wide, he had his sights set closer to home. He even surprised Hewitt by committing the summer before his senior year rather than waiting until the fall signing period.
“I looked at other places, but this was a great opportunity, a great situation.” he said. “I wanted a chance to play right away. Plus, the tradition of the great point guards is something special, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
So far, Crittenton has gotten his wish. He’s been the starting point guard from the day he stepped on campus, and he’s already starting to carve his own niche among Tech’s great point guards.
Through 25 games, he’s leading the Jackets in scoring, steals and assists. Crittenton has also been the catalyst during the team’s recent resurgence, averaging over 22 points per game during the team’s current four-game winning streak.
“People sometimes forget that we’re freshmen,” Crittenton noted. “We’re still learning. We’ve been playing together since the summer, but we’re still learning new things every single day.”
At 6-5 and nearly 200 pounds, Crittenton has provided the team with a mix of quickness and physical presence, as well as a steady hand at the helm of the offense.
Count Hewitt among those impressed with Crittenton’s performance so far this season. The coach has drawn on his previous experience with a freshman starting point guard to help guide his newest prodigy.
“There’s a lot I learned from working with Jarrett (Jack), and that’s helped me in coaching Javaris better,” Hewitt said. “Some of it giving him more responsibility, and some of it is simplifying things. I might have gotten a little too complicated with Jarrett early on.”
That’s not to say that Crittenton hasn’t stumbled at times. A day after engineering a win over Purdue in Maui, the freshman found himself on the bench for most of the second half after struggling against Memphis.
“Yes, that’s life with a freshman point guard,” admitted Hewitt. “It’s also life with a point guard that’s extremely competitive. If things are going right, he’s going to try to do it himself. That’s the biggest mistake a point guard can make, because when they do that, the rest of the team stands around and watches. He’s learning every single day, and he’s only going to get better.”
“A lot of people tease me about Coach Hewitt being my dad, because we have that kind of a relationship,” added Crittenton. “When I’m wrong, I’m wrong. He’s going get on me, and he’ll stay on me. I appreciate that, because I know he’s only trying to make me better. Sometimes I’ll get upset or frustrated, but when I sit down and think about it, I know that he’s trying to help me.”
Crittenton spent a lot of time during the summer and this fall working on his perimeter shooting, which has been complemented by good shot selection so far. During his short collegiate career, he’s already shown a knack for making spectacular moves around the rim. Of course, that provides plenty of fodder for comparisons to his predecessors at point guard.
“That happens a lot, but it’s an honor,” he said. “I want to be mentioned in the same breath as those guys when it’s all said and done. Those are all great point guards: Stephon (Marbury), Travis (Best), Mark Price, Kenny Anderson, all those guys. I want my name right along those guys, and I want some young kid being compared to me. I want to leave a legacy, both as an individual and as a team.”