By Mike Meiler
Niagara Gazette — If there ever was a quintessential Niagara Falls basketball story, it might be that of Jermaine Crumpton.
The Niagara Falls High School star, Canisius College commit and Mr. Basketball finalist took to the sport as a 12-year-old in the Biddy League at the Niagara Falls Boys and Girls Club. He played modified basketball at Gaskill Preparatory before jumping to the junior varsity team at the high school — just five minutes from his house — as a freshman. Before the end of the season, he was called up to the varsity team and starting a career that would end with a Division I scholarship.
Crumpton averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and two steals a game as a senior, leading the Wolverines to a spot in the Section VI Class AA championship. For that, he's been named the 2013 Niagara Gazette boys basketball Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Crumpton grew up watching former Niagara Falls stars Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris and Rob Garrison parlay success on the court into D-1 scholarships and even NBA time. He lives next door to Davon Marshall, another NFHS star who's now running point for D-1 Liberty, which made this year's NCAA Tournament.
"The summer going into junior year, I saw I could go D-1," Crumpton said. "I watched (Flynn, Harris and Garrison) go out there and get to that level. I just realized I could follow in their footsteps and go out there and do it."
That same summer, Crumpton wowed then-Canisius coach Tom Parrotta at a camp held at the college. Parrotta liked Crumpton so much, he offered him a scholarship on the spot.
"What will always stick out with me about Jermaine is that he really is that true teammate," NF coach Sal Constantino, "He was the leading scorer on our team, player of the year, but he's a very humble kid. He carries himself very well. He's an easy kid to look up to, and it's easy to see him as a leader. He's as well-liked a kid as we have in the building.
"That's what got him the first offer. ... Coach Parrotta saw him in our huddles, and he loved how he handled himself."
But Parrotta was fired after the Golden Griffins went 5-25 in 2011-12. When newly-hired Jim Baron took over, he told Crumpton that he'd have to re-earn the scholarship.
Crumpton returned to the Canisius camp the following summer before his senior season. Playing against a showcase team from Canada that had two D-1 prospects, Crumpton put up 39 points, Baron upheld the scholarship offer and Crumpton signed.
"I think that's when (Jermaine) realized how good he was," Constantino said.
The transition from high school to college won't be easy, though. Crumpton, who stands 6-foot-4, was often the biggest player on the court growing up. At Canisius, he'll likely play guard, a transition Constantino is helping prepare him for.
"Sal's got me in the gym, doing dribbling drills with (fellow NFHS standout J.J. Wilkins), learning how to shoot off screens, little things like that," Crumpton said.
"We really allowed him to step out a lot this year," Constantino said. "I think he's become a very good shooter for a kid his size. Through JV he was always the biggest guy, and you always put the biggest guy under the basket. That won't be the case next year."Follow Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.