Elijah Crawford's unique bond with BYU assistant is Cougars' gain

Elijah Crawford, the 6-foot-2 point guard out of Brewster Academy is rated as a four-star recruit from ESPN, 247Sports and On3 and is ranked as the 96th best recruit in the country according to ESPN 100. He is the sixth-highest high school recruit in program history and marks the second ESPN 100 signee under Young, with Crawford joining Brody Kozlowski. (BYU Photo)

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PROVO β€” Elijah Crawford's eyes immediately lit up, and you could practically see the smile even during a phone interview.

Just mention the name "Brandon Dunson" and Crawford was excited.

"That's my guy," he said.

The four-star point guard and the former Stanford assistant forged a unique bond during his recruitment, one not bound by a National Letter of Intent when the Cardinal fired head coach Jerod Haase after eight seasons.

As is the case with most college basketball assistants following a coaching change, Dunson was suddenly a free agent. Crawford, too, eventually asked out of his letter of intent; credit to Stanford for granting it.

It didn't take long for the duo to reunite as Kevin Young put together his first-year palette at BYU, one whose coaching staff was completed Wednesday with the hiring of former Providence star John Linehan.

In less than 55 days from the time former head coach Mark Pope left BYU for the same job at his alma mater Kentucky, BYU basketball hired a coaching staff, added two four-star transfers, signed a pair of four-star high school recruits, including Corner Canyon star Brody Kozlowski, and garnered a commitment from Euroleague prospect Egor Demin, a projected lottery pick in the 2025 NBA draft.

But one of the first prospects to start the chain was Crawford, a 6-foot-2 ESPN Top 100 point guard from Augusta, Georgia, who signed with BYU after averaging 12.0 points, 4.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game in leading Brewster Academy to a 27-7 record and fourth-place finish in the highly competitive EYBL Scholastic.

But without Dunson β€” Young's first official hire at BYU, who took over much of the program's day-to-day and recruiting work while the former NBA assistant finished his time with the Phoenix Suns β€” Crawford's domino may not have fallen BYU's direction.

"Honestly, he was a huge reason," Crawford told KSL.com during a radio appearance on ESPN radio in Utah County. "He recruited me along with coach Haas to Stanford. We already had a great relationship, and he always told me to do the best situation for me. He's a real guy; he's not going to lie to me. We built that strong, genuine connection over time.

"As soon as I decommitted, he was one of the first guys to reach out," Crawford added. "He just wanted to do it together."

A playmaker and three-level scorer who patterns his game off "a young Mike Conley," Crawford knows he'll start at the bottom of the BYU basketball program as a freshman in a group that includes returning starter Dallin Hall and senior Trey Stewart.

But he's capable of doing a lot, from scoring to passing to defending, and β€” perhaps most importantly β€” carries the maturity of a veteran, according to Brewster Academy coach Jason Smith.

"He was a great young man to have in our community this year," Smith said. "He's a spectacular student, near-4.0 GPA. He's a leader, voted captain by his peers the first month at Brewster. He's a very talented player, but he's more importantly a great person that people in the BYU community will be proud to have."

Crawford joined Brewster as a senior with an eye on the next level, but he credits the academy β€” which produced alumni that include Donovan Mitchell, Jalen Adams and former BYU standout Charles Abouo while competing on the New England prep circuit β€” led by Smith and longtime assistant Josh Lee with building him both as a player and a man.

"Their resume is crazy," Crawford said. "(Smith) has like seven national championships, and he told me he wanted me to come in and run the show. He's a great coach, and I have nothing bad to say about him. He's also a great guy, but will get on you when he needs to."


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