Dermaine Crockrell came to Bemidji State last season from Scottsdale Community College and scored 21 points in his second game. He went on to earn Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Newcomer of the Year honors and helped guide the team to a conference title and trip to the NCAA Tournament. Now the pressure is on his shoulders to lead the team to victory. At 13-11 overall and 11-9 in league play, the Beavers are exceeding the expectations of their preseason prediction to finish tied for 12th, thanks to Crockrell and a group of veteran players. We sat down with Crockrell to get his take on the season and his time at BSU.
What made you decide to go to community college out of high school?
Dermaine Crockrell: Coming from high school I wasn’t really getting recruited, so I thought it would be best to go to community college to mature as a basketball player and a student. By the third game I became a starter and in my second year I became an All-American. My work ethic and dedication to basketball helped me out.
So why Bemidji State?
DC: To be honest I have no idea (laughing). I had some opportunities in Missouri, but the people were really nice here. I really liked the coaching staff and they never stopped recruiting me.
Did it help knowing Arizona natives James Ellisor and Ryan Kinnell were already here and that Jason Edwards would also be attending Bemidji State?
DC: That was plus, especially James and knowing Jason was going to come here. It made me really comfortable and feel like I was a part of the team right away.
Had you crossed paths with some of those guys before?
DC: I knew Jason. A lot of trash talk went on between me and him because he can never keep his mouth closed. I also played against James my freshman year, he was a really good player.
You had to miss the first 10 games of the season last year, was that hard?
DC: It was devastating. Basically I came up here and couldn’t do anything about it, just go to school. I was really depressed seeing the guys go on the road and watching the games online because I felt like I could’ve helped them out. But, it was a blessing for me to sit out. It made me think a lot slower and enjoy it.
So how was that first weekend for you?
DC: I don’t know how I scored 20 points, my legs were burning and I was a little tired. I was so excited to be playing. It was a lot different. It made me think I would have to work a lot harder to play at this level and it wasn’t going to be easy.
Were you surprised when you were named NSIC Newcomer of the Year?
DC: Yeah, it was a big surprise. I thought there were a lot of guys out there that did a really good job. We did win the conference, so that was a plus and probably sealed the deal. It was an honor.
It was a risk to come up to BSU, but how big was it to come here and win a conference championship and earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament?
DC: It was a really big deal. It was even being talked about it when I went home. Winning it with the guys that we went to work with everyday, practicing hard, it was fun with guys like Bryce Tesdahl, James Ellisor, Lance Rongstad, all those guys. It’s something I probably won’t experience again.
The season ends and Matt Bowen decides to leave to become the head coach at Minnesota Duluth; what were your reactions?
DC: I was more sad than anything. I wasn’t mad at Coach Bowen. It’s understandable. It was better for him and I would want the best thing for him. It was just like me choosing Bemidji State, it was the best opportunity for me. It’s not like a divorce or anything, but when you grow on someone like that and get close to them, it’s sad to see them go.
What was last summer like and how was the transition with Mike Boschee?
DC: I was a little worried the new coach may not like the way I play or bring in new guys that didn’t fit in with the current guys. But Coach Boschee came in and did a really good job. I like him a lot. I do look back and we are eating a little different this year. With Coach Bowen we always had pizza, but now we have subs and a lot of the guys don’t like the subs because it doesn’t fill them up, but it has been fun.
You are the top guy now. How has that been on you this season?
DC: There is a little pressure. I got put in that position for a reason. It is hard sometimes and I put a lot of pressure on myself after a loss. It’s basketball, you win some and lose some and I just need to let those things go when we do lose and keep playing hard.
What stands out about 2012-13 and what are your expectations now?
DC: I would say how we were doubted at the beginning of the year, being picked to finish 12th. We are right in the running, just a few bad losses, otherwise we could be in first or second. We just have to finish strong and basically we have to make a really good push in the playoffs or we aren’t going to make the tournament again.
As your career winds down, what have you taken away from your time at BSU?
DC: Meeting people, being able to communicate and come out of the my shell and be more comfortable around people. Academically, I have learned a lot here. It’s been fun and there are a lot of good people here.
So what does the future hold for Dermaine Crockrell?
DC: I have no idea yet. I would like to play overseas, but if not I just want to give back to people. I want to work with kids and let them know that if they don’t think they can make it, that they can. Maybe be a coach or a motivator, I don’t really know yet.
For more information on the Bemidji State men’s basketball program, follow the Beavers on Twitter (@BSUHoops or @BSUBeavers), like them on Facebook (facebook.com/Bemidji-State-Basketball or facebook.com/BSUBeavers) or sign up for the TXTUpdates from BSUBeavers.com text-messaging system through the "Mulitmedia" pull down menu on the main page of BSUBeavers.com.
Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).