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January 10, 2005When Kentucky pulled in perhaps the nation's top basketball recruiting class last year, the one question everyone had was how the coaching staff would keep everyone happy. Just 12 games into the season, they are already having problems.
UK coach Tubby Smith addressed rumors of McDonald's All-American Joe Crawford's happiness on his Monday night call-in show, admitting that he isn't quite sure if Crawford will decide to transfer from the program or not. Smith said he met with the player and his parents on Monday, just a day after Crawford played only three minutes in a 65-59 loss to No. 2 Kansas.
"Joe, his parents, and I met (Monday) and at this juncture it's still up in the air and is going to take some time," Smith said of Crawford's thought process. "There is the possibility there that he will transfer."
Crawford, who was rated as one of the nation's top shooting guards coming out of Detroit's Renaissance High School, but has struggled to adapt to the college game. Although he was played in all 12 games and is sixth in minutes at 14.2 per game, Crawford has averaged just 4.1 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Billed as a shooter, Crawford has made just 34.7 percent from the field and 20 percent (5-of-25) from three-point range - although he has had numerous shots rattle in and out.
Smith expressed his hopes that the 6-foot-4 guard would stick it out at UK and allow some adjustment time.
"You hate to see any young man (possibly) leave because I think he can be very valuable as we go into the SEC," Smith said. "Joe is a great kid. I hope he understands we want him here, but he's got to do what's best for him."
Freshmen leaving a program early on in their career is far from a foreign concept these days. In the past few seasons, the trend has grown and UK has even lost Rashaad Carruth and Marvin Stone - two highly thought of recruits. To that end, Smith said he understands the frustrations Crawford and his family might have.
"He needs and a lot of kids go through this," Smith said. "I went through it. I remember calling my dad when I was away from home (at High Point College) and there were only three blacks on campus and I was a little uneasy.
"The decision is tough. In this day in time, the visibility, the media scrutiny and you come in with great accolades as a high school All-American, so the expectations are pretty high. But then again, we are 12 games into the season and he is sixth on the team in minutes."
Crawford has played well in spurts, dropping a career-high 12 points against William & Mary and grabbing five rebounds on two occasions. But the unhappiness likely stems from Crawford playing just a scoreless four minutes in the SEC opener against South Carolina and three against Kansas.
A decision about Crawford's future could come as early as Tuesday or Wednesday because the university starts spring classes on Wednesday. If Crawford does leave UK, he would have to sit out at any other school until next January, when he would be a junior in eligibility because the NCAA would penalize him for not completing one year at UK after signing a National Letter of Intent to play for the Cats.