Walk-on known for energy, toughness
Senior forward Jon Crandell goes up for a layup during warm-ups before the Purdue game on Feb. 28 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.
Before the 2007-08 men’s basketball season began, then-sophomore guard Isaiah Dahlman tried to spark a conversation with new walk-on forward Jon Crandell, asking Crandell what kind of music he liked.
“At that time Lil’ Wayne was the best, everybody loved him. Jon didn’t look like a Lil’ Wayne guy so I said, ‘What kind of music do you like?’” Dahlman said. “He says, ‘Uh, Lil’ Wayne’s my favorite.’ I said, ‘Oh, do you know any songs?’ He said, ‘Uh, no, but he’s the best.’
“At first he was trying to fit in, trying to do what everybody would do, being the new guy.”
Crandell didn’t have the typical path of a walk-on, so he understandably was nervous. He was just a normal student during his freshman year, playing intramural basketball, until former MSU walk-on guard DeMarcus Ducre spotted Crandell and told him to look more into basketball.
“He told me that he thought I had a shot if I worked on my game,” Crandell said. “I never thought I could play basketball for Michigan State; it was a dream. I started waking up at 7 a.m., I was in the weight room every morning and shooting every day. I worked all summer and I made it by a long shot.”
Each day, Crandell was afraid that the coaches would tell him to go home. Coming out of Rochester Adams High School, he had some Division 2 and Division 3 offers, but chose MSU for the education, figuring he didn’t have a future in basketball.
“I wasn’t sure if one day they were going to tell me, ‘Sorry, Jon, pack your stuff up,’” he said. “They never really told me, but finally the season started and I had a jersey in there so I kind of assumed. It was good that way because it kept me working as hard as I could every day in fear of them sending me home.”
So for three years, Crandell has been a staple of the legendary MSU scout team, where he has formed an unbreakable bond with his teammates.
“They’re some of my best friends in school,” Crandell said of the scout team. “They’re great guys, and we work as a unit out there and get even more of a teammate bond with them because it’s us five competing against (the rest of the team) every day. We’re kind of the underdog so the whole team is playing for each other and we’ve just become real good friends.”
As for life after basketball, Crandell hopes to use a degree in economics to get into sports business.
The energy he brings to practice is something teammates said will be hard to replace.
“He’s definitely vocal,” senior forward Raymar Morgan said.
“You hear him wherever you go, which is great actually. He brings an energy and toughness to the scout team so it’s been great.”
Despite his lack of knowledge about Lil’ Wayne — something Dahlman still gives Crandell “a little crap about” — Dahlman said Crandell fit in perfectly and knows he always will because of his character.
“He’s brought so much energy to this program in practice,” Dahlman said. “That’s one thing I give Jon credit for, above anybody else. He’s always brought energy to the place day in and day out.
“I’ve always respected him for that one simple fact that even if he didn’t have the best basketball skills or knowledge, he cared about the program and he brought whatever he could to it. I’ll always remember him for that, and I always give him credit when credit’s due, and he definitely deserves it from this program.”