By Aaron Mansfield
It's hard to believe it's been six years since Jonny Flynn was a senior at Niagara Falls High School. Jermaine Crumpton was 12 at the time, and his older brother, Michael, was a sophomore on Flynn's team.
"My brother, he's the reason I really started playing," Crumpton said. "I'd go watch him play. He got a chance to play his sophomore year with Jonny Flynn when he was a senior. I got a chance to go to his games and see how much fun he was having, and I just wanted to have fun, too."
Crumpton started playing basketball that year and has been a dominant force in the paint ever since. Now, after a distinguished high school career with the Wolverines, he is preparing to enter his freshman year with Canisius College. The 2012-13 First-Team All-WNY forward sat down with The News inside the Koessler Athletic Center press conference theater this afternoon, following a morning spent as a counselor at Canisius' summer basketball camp, and discussed his transition into the college game.
While fellow freshman Adam Weir (Canisius High School) has been with the Griffs for five weeks, Crumpton, who had a later high school graduation date, just joined the program this week. Keith Vinci, Canisius' head coach of athletic performance, is Crumpton's trainer.
"Crumpton has the body size; he just needs to grow into it," Vinci said. "He's still a baby in maturity level, still has the baby fat on him. He's kind of like Josiah Heath was … Crumpton has the frame so he can become a big, strong boy. He just needs to continue to work on it.
"Crumpton, in the three days I've seen him so far, he's given everything."
The trainer's goal for his newest project is getting Crumpton toned. Crumpton's goal for his game? Turning into more of a swingman rather than the low-post-bruiser role he occupied in high school en route to averaging 20 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game in his senior season.
Crumpton, at 6-foot-5, played the 4 or 5 in high school, but he's undersized to play power forward in the college game, even at the mid-major level.
"Right now, I'm still working on getting a good handle, still working on my jump shot more," he said. "I want to be able to step out and knock down shots. I want to get stronger, too."
The whole basketball team works out together, and they lift four days a week – an upper-body focus day, lower-body focus day, basic strength day, and full-body day, the last of which was on the slate for today. Vinci said Crumpton was working out with senior forward Chris Manhertz, one of the team's leaders, one day this week.
"Everything is circuit-based," Vinci said. "Because of the way [head coach Jim Baron] plays, these guys are constantly moving. So in the weight room, we're trying to replicate that while we're building some strength."
Vinci takes suggestions from Baron "every week or two" on focal points for each athlete in his training. Crumpton has only been around the team for four days now, but he knows at least one pillar of the Griffs' system.
"They're really up and down," he said. "They like to run, kind of similar to my high school. We liked to be a transition team."
While Crumpton is brand new to the weight-lifting side of training, he focused on his cardiovascular fitness before arriving at Canisius. Crumpton said he would either go play pick-up ball and train at gyms by his house – "just keep my body right," he said – or slide in his headphones and go for a jog. He enjoys listening to rap artist J. Cole when he runs, but he admitted he has not yet gotten a chance to listen to the rapper's red-hot new album, Born Sinner.
Crumpton is taking two summer classes – public speaking in the classroom, archaeology online - and plans to eventually earn his Master's degree in criminal justice from Canisius.
The young man from Niagara Falls knew he wanted to become successful after watching James Starks and Flynn emerge from the area and thrive.
"The hardest thing was staying out of trouble, surrounding myself with the right people, staying focused and getting good grades in school," Crumpton said. "Basketball just motivated me to do that … [Starks and Flynn] put Niagara Falls on the map, letting people know where they came from. I was kind of young, but getting a chance to watch those guys, it was just amazing."
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This interview is part of a story on Western New York’s four Division I-bound basketball players that will appear in The News within the next couple weeks. The Prep Talk blog will briefly highlight each interview before the full story appears in the paper. Here are links to the blogs about Canisius College guard Adam Weir, a Canisius High School graduate, and Harford University forward La'Trice Hall of Sacred Heart. Grand Island’s Cassie Oursler, who is headed for Robert Morris, has not responded to interview requests.
Follow reporter Aaron Mansfield on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.