Terrence Payne/NBC Sports

Danny Ainge’s son, Crew, paving his own basketball career

2 Comments

Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge has had a busy summer to say the least. After hiring Butler’s Brad Stevens, and acquiring multiple picks for future drafts, he is setting the foundation for a post-Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett era in Boston. As Ainge begins a new chapter in the franchise’s road to banner No. 18, his son Crew is starting to establish himself as a high school basketball prospect.

Crew, one of six children, has been a big stock riser in New England this summer. He entered the spring healthy — after dealing with a nagging wrist injury — and in shape, which has made him become a reliable part to the New England Playaz AAU team.

“Due to my wrist, I was out of shape,” Ainge told NBC Sports. “Now, I’m getting back; getting stronger.

“I just think my confidence is up a lot. I’ve been working really hard, and it’s starting to pay off.”

source:
Terrence Payne/NBC Sports

Being the son of an NBA executive obviously has its perks, such as access to the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham, Mass. But don’t be fooled, Crew is drawing college interest through his own work ethic, not because of his last name. He’s gone from an energy guy to a player defenses need to account for. He can now make plays, as he can shots. He also possesses great instincts on the floor and still maintains that high motor, which in return makes him a better overall player.

“Crew has worked really, really hard to get in the best shape of his life,” Crew’s older brother Austin told NBC Sports. “His energy and toughness on the court, I think, is a direct result of his conditioning.”

Austin, the Celtics Director of Player Personnel, attributes the rise in Crew’s game to his season at prep school. This fall the 5-foot-11 Crew enrolled at Kimball Union (N.H.), playing alongside top-50 recruit Abdul-Malik Abu. But before he took to the hardwood with his new school, his basketball coach Michael Olson first made him hit the trails, running cross country in the fall.

“I give a lot of credit to his prep school coach,” Austin told NBC Sports. “He was a big difference.”

The hard work has paid off as Crew has heard from Marist, Brown, Columbia and Fairfield, in addition to Holy Cross and Northeastern — two schools he visited this spring.

“I have no offers yet, but I’m hearing from a lot of the local schools,” Ainge added. “I’m not really paying attention to it. It should take care of itself.”

Of course, his father, along with his siblings, attended BYU. Despite the family legacy, Crew isn’t solely focused on going to Provo, Utah for college … he’s keeping his options open at the moment. And his family is supportive of whatever school he decides to attend.

“Crew can go wherever he wants,” said Austin, who played at BYU. “We want the best spot for him.

“We’re letting him handle it on his own. We want him to experience this, and go through it. We’re always here to answer questions. But Crew pretty much has it figured out.”

The Ainges are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since Crew repeated his sophomore year when he entered Kimball Union, he will be eligible to go on his mission once he graduates from high school. Crew, who’s brother Cooper recently left for his two-year mission, told NBC Sports that he will likely begin his college career as a member of the Class of 2017, though, that is subject to change.

“The most likely scenario is me going after my senior year,” Ainge said. “That’s what it’s looking like right now.”

Whether it’s the fall of 2015 or 2017 when Crew starts college, he, like his father, will look back to the summer of 2013 as influential times in their respective basketball careers.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Johnson, Paige help No. 9 Tar Heels roll past Panthers 85-64

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
Leave a comment

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Brice Johnson scored 19 points to lead a dominating offensive performance that helped No. 9 North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 85-64 on Sunday.

Marcus Paige added 15 points for the Tar Heels (21-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 59 percent to stay atop the league ahead of the next renewal of their fierce rivalry with Duke.

UNC had plenty of balance, shared the ball and got out in transition in arguably their best performance in weeks, using a 13-0 second-half burst to blow the game open. UNC finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, 24 points off turnovers and scored 16 fast-break points after managing a combined five in the past two games.

Michael Young and James Robinson each scored 15 points to lead Pitt (17-7, 6-6). But the Panthers shot 37 percent and committed 19 turnovers, and a strong effort on the glass did little to offset their troubles.

The Tar Heels were playing their first home game in two weeks after a difficult three-game road trip that started with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame. Then came Tuesday’s game at Boston College, where the Tar Heels struggled against a winless league team then had a scare when Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams briefly collapsed in a second-half huddle after an attack of vertigo and had to leave the sideline for the rest of the game.

Williams was back in the office on Wednesday’s off day, returned to practice Thursday and told reporters Friday he was fine and even cracked jokes about a two-decade history with vertigo dating to his Kansas years.

Getting back home certainly helped everyone feel better. After wrestling with shooting struggles for much of the past month, UNC’s offense kicked back into an efficient and balanced gear, while Paige – the player the Tar Heels are practically begging to jolt free from a prolonged shooting slump – looked more like his old self against the Panthers.

That included one second-half play in which he caught a crosscourt pass from Theo Pinson in transition and made sure to step back behind the arc before burying a 3-pointer.

The Panthers had lost three of four since a 5-2 league start coming in, including 65-63 on a late tip-in at No. 12 Miami on Tuesday. And Pitt again had trouble getting their offense going, failing to crack 70 points for the third straight game.

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: Second-leading scorer Jamel Artis scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting. … Pitt finished with a 41-29 rebounding advantage. … Pitt made 9 of 21 3-point attempts.

UNC: Justin Jackson scored 14 points. … UNC made 8 of 15 shots from 3-point range and 13 of 15 free throws. … Jackson and Pinson had six assists each. … UNC managed just one offensive rebound.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh hosts Wake Forest on Tuesday.

UNC hosts Duke on Wednesday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Denzel Valentine dominant as No. 8 Michigan State whips Indiana

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) shoots over Indiana's Kevin Yogi Ferrell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis
Leave a comment

Trailing by one point at the half, Indiana appeared to be in good shape at No. 8 Michigan State. However the fact that they were unable to slow down Denzel Valentine, who scored 15 first-half points, was a major concern for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Sure enough the national Player of the Year candidate continued on his tour de force in the second half, scoring another 15 points and dishing out seven assists as the Spartans rolled to an 88-69 victory.

For the game Valentine finished with 30 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. Of Michigan State’s 48 second half points, Valentine had a hand in 29 of them with all seven of his assists resulting in Michigan State layups. It was a dominant performance from one of the nation’s best players, a versatile guard whose four games missed due to injury may have led to some overlooking him when it comes to those national Player of the Year conversations.

When Valentine’s on everything else flows smoothly for Tom Izzo’s team, as his ability to both score and create results in quality looks for teammates who would struggle if they had to get that part of the job done themselves.

The biggest beneficiary Sunday afternoon was forward Matt Costello, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Of Costello’s ten made field goals (10-for-12 FG) five were assisted by Valentine, and he accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half. As a team Michigan State shot 63.3 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals in the second half, turning a tight contest into a blowout.

Tum Tum Nairn returned the court for the first time in seven games, but he played just two minutes and his time on the court will be managed carefully by Izzo moving forward. For many teams not having your point guard at full strength would represent a crippling blow, but that hasn’t been the case for Michigan State thanks in large part to Valentine. Michigan State went 4-3 in those seven games without Nairn, but the three losses were by a total of three points.

Valentine’s ability to make his teammates better will be a key factor down the stretch for Michigan State, and that skill was what led to the Spartans blowing out Indiana on Sunday.