From birdies to buckets: How one student athlete turned an amusing idea into reality
Standing at six foot three and weighing 210 pounds, then-TCU golfer Clayton Crawford’s teammates used to joke he should be on the basketball court, not the golf course.
“We were halfway kidding,” Crawford said. “But I was serious in thinking you know what, that would be kind of fun.”
This basketball season, the senior finance and real estate major, made the joke a reality. Crawford is one of six seniors playing basketball for the Horned Frogs this year. He hasn’t had much playing time, but he’s been an asset in practice and in shoring up the line-up in a season marked by numerous injuries.
Crawford credits Stephen Gephardt, the men’s golf and men’s basketball assistant strength and conditioning coach, with helping Crawford find his way to the basketball court.
Gephardt said he heard about Crawford’s on-court abilities from team managers.
“He played on an intramural team with all the basketball managers at the time and they always told me Clay was one of their better players,” Gephardt said. “He expressed some interest to me about playing on the basketball team, so I mentioned it to Coach Dixon and said look: ‘He’s going to be a high character guy, low expectations and he’s going to work hard every day and never complain.’”
Dixon suggested Crawford come in the summertime to play open gym with the guys to get to know the team, Gephardt said.
Dixon said Crawford played well.
“Clayton is a guy who wanted to be a part of it and he was a golfer who improved dramatically to the point where we needed him early because we didn’t have enough bodies throughout the season,” Dixon said. “As he’s gotten better, we moved him from a guy who’s playing an undersized big guy to a guy whose skills have improved out on the perimeter. He’s worked his tail off.”
His teammates were surprised at how easy he made the transition.
“The athleticism was definitely a surprise but I know it because he works the hardest on the team in the weight room,” TCU guard Kenrich Williams said. “He did a great job of transitioning from golf to basketball and he can dunk easily, probably a little better than me.”
In high school, Crawford was a two-time all-state selection in golf and basketball, but when he became a Horned Frog, he had to make a choice.
“Clayton came up one weekend for a visit and I actually hadn’t watched him play golf, but he sent me a video of him dunking and all of his highlights in basketball so I thought his work ethic and athleticism would make him a great golfer,” TCU head golf coach Bill Montigel said.
Crawford joined the golf team in 2014.
“It was awesome,” Crawford said. “My freshman year I got to play in a few tournaments, which was a lot of fun, but growing up in Colorado, golf was seasonal, so I was only playing golf six months a year. When I came here, it was like getting thrown in the deep end of the pool because there were all these great golfers from all over the world and we were playing for hours every single day. It was a really cool experience.”
The Aspen native once shot a low score of 65 (-7) in a tournament; however, that didn’t make him a standout at TCU.
“I had seen some of his golf scores and they were pretty good but unfortunately for Clayton when he came in we finished 10th in the country,” Montigel said. “So he was behind some good players. He needed play time more than anything else, but he wasn’t able to get much of it because of the depth of our team.”
Now, Crawford is a part of TCU’s stretch run toward its likely first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years.
“I chose a great year to hop on,” he said. “I’m excited because it’s been so fun already, but the most fun part is still coming up: senior night, the Big 12 tournament, and postseason basketball. That’s what we’ve been working for all these months, it just keeps getting better.”