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Roger Crawford

HOW MUCH does senior guard Roger Crawford love playing basketball?
On a fateful play against Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA
tournament, Crawford stole the ball from a Hoya and, afterburners
aflame, started upcourt toward the Arkansas basket. But about 40 feet
from the hoop, he turned his right ankle and broke it. As he got
closer to the basket he was fouled. He still made the layup.
But he missed the free throw.
Is it any wonder that his teammates decided to dedicate the rest
of the season to him? As further tribute, every Hog made sure
Crawford's number, 31, remained in the game by having a small red 31
patch affixed to each of their jerseys. Moreover, no one had to be
reminded that 31 was also the number of victories needed for the Hogs
to win the national title.
That title quest became even more of a challenge without Crawford,
a defensive specialist and transition magician who had been vital to
the effectiveness of the team's four-guard rotation. With Crawford
out, Arkansas's famous hell-bent defense had to change gears. The
Hogs' 40 Minutes of Hell, which had already been reduced to about 30
minutes because of the arrival of freshman twin towers Lee Wilson and
Darnell Robinson, was further discounted to about 20 minutes of
sporadic bedevilment.
''There is no question that Roger is one of the best transition
guards in the college game,'' says assistant coach Brad Dunn.
''Often, we went to him on the bench and increased our lead. Not many
teams can say that about a substitute.''
As badly as the other Hogs missed his presence on the court,
though, their blues couldn't compare to those of Crawford, a
basketball junkie who had to sit on the bench in mufti for the last
four hog-wild games of the season. ''It was hard,'' says Crawford,
who contributed 7.4 points in only 18 minutes a game this season
before getting injured. ''I appreciated the guys wearing the 31, but
nothing could really comfort me, because I was dying to play. But I
cheered them on.''
Crawford usually enjoys being the odd man out. When it comes to
hairdos, for instance, he makes a point of going against the
prevailing Hog style. Last season he was the only guy on the team
with a shaved head. This season he was one of the few without one.
''I guess I'm always trying to be the oddball,'' says Crawford.
However, being the one guy on the team on crutches was not a welcome
''Roger wanted to play so badly against Michigan ((in the Midwest
Regional final)),'' says reserve Reggie Merritt. ''He had tears in
his eyes in the tunnel before the game. We wanted him to go out in
And he did. After the Razorbacks had held off the Wolverines,
Nolan Richardson took a few final snips at the net in Reunion Arena
and then put it around Crawford's neck. The team then hoisted
Crawford to the goal. ''That, more than anything, made me realize I
was still part of the team,'' he says.
Crawford spent his youth in Birmingham watching his father play
pickup ball in recreation centers but didn't join his first team
until the 10th grade at Carver High. A sparkling career at Carver was
followed by a fine freshman season at nearby Walker Junior College,
where he attracted interest from several of the nation's top Division
I schools. But after he injured his left ankle early in his sophomore
year, Crawford saw all but one of his Division I scholarship offers
''When I got hurt, everyone backed off because they thought my
injury was serious,'' he says. ''I was surprised that Arkansas stuck
with me. That says a lot about the program.''
It also says a lot about Crawford. -- K.A.