6,965 miles: Crockrell’s path to an International MVP

6,965 miles: Crockrell’s path to an International MVP
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
6,965 miles: Crockrell’s path to an International MVP

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Four years ago, Dermaine Crockrell finished his basketball career at Bemidji State University averaging 14.6 points per game. Less than one month ago, he was named the United Basketball Alliance of India’s International MVP after averaging 41 points per game.

Crockrell spent his first full season of post-graduate basketball competition 6,965 miles away from the campus where he refined his basketball skills and earned his college degree. Originally from Mesa, Ariz., the move to Punjab, India was one that didn’t slow Crockrell, but one that helped him flourish.

“Being away from home, from Arizona going to Bemidji, and traveling all that distance I would say is what really helped me,” Crockrell said. “Just being away from home, being away from everybody, trying to figure out how to adjust to that and how you’ll be able to survive, you know…I would say that’s what helped me.”

Over Crockrell’s final six games with the Steelers, he scored at least 42 points with two 50-point games. His career high at Bemidji State was 29 points Feb. 8, 2013 in an 82-74 win at No. 5 Minnesota State University, Mankato. In his pursuit to continue his basketball career, Crockrell has improved his skills to earn one of the biggest achievements of his life.

“I would probably list (the MVP) number one as far as basketball accomplishments, especially playing overseas and professionally,” Crockrell said. “There’s a bunch of good guys I played against so to win MVP is special for me. I would say that’s probably number one for me minus graduating from Bemidji State.

“At Bemidji State, we had a group of guys that could score the ball. I mean, it wasn’t just me scoring the ball that was going to help us win games. It was getting everybody else the ball and I felt like sometimes you do that, sometimes you have to score depending on what the team needs. But at Bemidji, we had such a good group of guys that I didn’t have to score that much.”

Crockell, who earned 2012-13 All-NSIC second team honors and 2011-12 NSIC Newcomer of the Year, played two seasons at Bemidji State from 2011-13 after transferring from Scottsdale Community College. He was one of four seniors who helped lead BSU to finish the season on a six-game winning streak to reach the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament Championship in 2013 under head coach Mike Boschee.

“(Crockrell earning International MVP) doesn’t surprise me at all,” Boschee said. “He was really talented when we had him here. He was very athletic, could shoot it and could drive it. We almost had to push him a little bit to score while he was here.

“He’s a great kid to coach and a great teammate. He had a lot of success here in a short period of time and I’m glad he’s trying to play again because he was definitely very talented.”

The transition from living in the United States to living internationally posed many hurdles including a language barrier and a change in diet. Playing basketball in a different culture also brought some of the same obstacles.

“The courts seem a little bigger and you’ve got guys that are able to shoot the three and run pick and rolls,” Crockrell said. “I would say that the competition is a little bit different. Just the players being a little bit better and guys are really good offensively so it’s kind of hard to play defense.”

The future may lead Crockrell to play another season for the Punjab Steelers, but the International MVP is keeping his options open to any possibility.

“(The Steelers) are going to have another season around September and they want me to go back, but depending on if the pay is different and if it’s a better system for me, I might try to go play somewhere else,” Crockrell said. “But I’m going to try to keep playing, keep improving and keep working on my game.”

Whether or not Crockrell is able to continue his dream and play basketball professionally, Boschee says this past season in India is an experience he can carry with him for the rest of his life.

“I’m not sure really where this leads for Dermaine,” Boschee said. “I know he’s coaching a little bit…and that’s a good opportunity to draw from for him but what a great opportunity just to travel the world a little bit and gain some more insight into what life’s like.”

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).