Javon McCrea came to the University at Buffalo a quiet 17-year-old who admired LeBron James. He will leave as the school’s career scoring leader and with a win today will give the program its first division championship.
It’s Senior Day at UB and McCrea will be honored along with teammates Jarod Oldham, Josh Freelove, Auraum Nuiriankh and Corey Raley-Ross.
McCrea has scored the majority of his 1,963 points at Alumni Arena where his mother, Shannon, watches each game a few rows behind the Bulls bench.
Fans will enjoy McCrea’s spin moves in the paint and left-handed dunks for a final time at 2:30 p.m. against Bowling Green (12-18, 6-11 Mid-American Conference). The only thing missing from McCrea’s career is a championship and a win today will give the Bulls their first outright East Division title in school history.
“It would definitely feel great, all that hard work throughout my whole career would finally pay off,” McCrea said on Friday. “It kind of hit me earlier that it will be last game here but I won’t feel the full effect until Saturday.”
Elsewhere in the Big 4, St. Bonaventure (16-13, 6-9 Atlantic 10) travel to VCU (23-7, 10-4) for its regular season finale today at 7 p.m. The Bonnies are tied with La Salle for eighth place in the A-10 standings and will be seeded either 8th or 9th for next week’s A-10 Tournament in Brooklyn. They will play LaSalle (14-15) at noon Thursday at the Barclays Center.
It’s also Senior Day for the UB women (16-12, 9-8) who honor seniors Margeaux Gupilan, Jenna Rickan and Cherridy Thornton before today’s noon tipoff against Kent State (7-21, 4-13).
McCrea’s numbers in his final season at UB (18-9, 12-5) have been consistent with those of his junior year, once again proving his worth as an incredibly efficient player. The senior from Newark is averaging 18.4 points, 9.9 rebounds – two more than his junior season – while shooting 56.8 percent from the floor.
“I can’t speak to the whole history of it but it’s hard to imagine another player who’s had the impact that he’s had,” said UB first-year coach Bobby Hurley. “Statistically and what he’s meant obviously this year to the winning and the success we’ve had. He’s given us a legitimate opportunity to contend at the highest level.”
Hurley didn’t know much about McCrea prior to coming to UB but during the interview process he was impressed by what he saw on video.
“The moment I started seeing the numbers and the film to back it up I knew he was a special player,” Hurley said. “Then you don’t know what he’s like to be around and then you realize what a great kid he is. He works hard, he has a great attitude, he’s about winning. It’s really good. But you don’t know what until you’re around him.”
McCrea admits today’s game will be emotional, but there’s too much on the line to allow it to affect him.
“We still have to go hard and try and win this game,” McCrea said. “We can do all that other stuff afterwards. I know I’m making history now but it really hasn’t hit me yet. I’m still living in the moment. Maybe a couple of years down the road then I’ll realize it.”
In today’s game, Hurley is concerned about the Bulls’ rebounding. UB was on the plus side on the backboards in seven straight games until Tuesday’s loss at Akron, when they were outrebounded 36-28 in an 83-71 loss to the Zips. Bowling Green grabbed 17 offensive boards against the Bulls in a 74-68 win by the Falcons on Feb. 2.
“When we rebound well, we usually win,” Hurley said. “We need to fix that. We need their offensive rebounds and if we play a defense that’s capable we should be in pretty good shape.”