Keeping the dream alive: Q&A with Peter Crawford

Keeping the dream alive: Q&A with Peter Crawford

At 32, Peter Crawford felt like his chance to play for the Boomers at an Olympic Games had passed him by. But, only weeks out from representing Australia in London, PC sat down with BA’s Davin Sgargetta, who learnt that anything’s possible, as long as you continue to work hard and continue to believe.

Peter Crawford the Olympian — how does it feel?

PC: It feels pretty good. It was definitely something that wasn’t on the radar in the sense of the goals that I put down as a young fella. I remember the 2000 Olympics and I think Sam Mackinnon played for the Crocs back then and he was so much better than everyone else on the team and it seemed so far away and so unattainable but, you know, here we are now and it’s a pretty good feeling.

How far back did you think you were a real chance?

PC: It’s funny — in about mid-December I was averaging about 16-and-a-half, 17 points in the NBL, I was shooting just under 50 per cent from the three-point line, so one of the other guys up in Townsville who played in the Atlanta Olympics sat me down and sort of said, ‘You could have a crack; you could have a good chance’, and he rang Brett to feel him out and there still wasn’t that big a window actually, so I wasn’t too sure the whole way. The funny thing was, at the YouYi Games, when we didn’t have all the big boys, I went up to Andrej [Lemanis] at the end of the camp before they chose that team and said, ‘I’m not going to get cut here am I? I’m doing enough to make it for the Chinese series?’ And he said, yeah, you’ll be right’. Being my first big tournament and being cut a few times before, it’s really hard to gauge where you are and where you’re at, so it’s hard to tell. But I’m just enjoying everything and I’m just happy to be here.

You’re 32. As an athlete you would’ve got to 26 and 28, you would’ve seen the Beijing Games come and go and probably thought, I’m not going to get there. It’s amazing how things can change and an opportunity opens up for you.

PC: Two years ago I had a really good end to the NBL season, and there’s not too many NBL players in the Boomers anymore. It’s pretty much all European and NBA sort of guys, but at that point in time I had a good end to the season, a good end to the play-offs and I remember the media asking me then: ‘Do you think you’ve done enough to put your hand up for Boomers selection?’ And I remember answering then, and Brett had even told me: ‘That’s not really in my goals anymore. I’ve been told to move on and focus on other things’. But, Brett gave me a call and told me to come in, and the good thing about it all is I really enjoy the camps — I really enjoy the opportunity to play with the guys that I never really otherwise have a chance to play with to gauge yourself against them, but also to hang around with them. Also, to see what they do to improve, and what you need to do to be at that level. You know, but you get to stay in nice hotels, you get to travel around, we travel well, and it’s just a fun environment to be in and even if you don’t get to go to the big tournament — I got cut before the Qualifiers last year — you know I still got to go to London and Spain and also China with the B squad as well and it’s great times and you really get to hang out and make friends with guys that you wouldn’t really have an opportunity to play with, so I’m thankful to just be involved a lot of the time and making an Olympics is just overwhelming. 

Before we talk about the Olympics, what does this do for your career moving forward?

PC: I haven’t really thought too much about it. Since I was selected, the focus has just been about that first game against Brazil. One thing that it does do, and when they name the Olympic team, they put the bios that they filmed up from last year — meet your Olympic athletes. I did mine last year when I was here on the Gold Coast before we went away and I was like, ‘What am I even answering these questions for? Things like, ‘What is being in the Olympic Village going to mean to you and yada yada’, and I was just like, ‘Well, I might as well just put down stupid answers’. Then when the team got announced on the Friday, up comes that bio and I thought, ‘Bloody hell. Maybe I should’ve answered those questions a bit better’. At that point in time I just didn’t think it was that achievable. One of the questions in that little thing was, ‘What’s the highlight of your career?’ I played in the 2001 Grand Final team and lost as a young fella coming off the bench, I’ve made the Semi Finals a bunch of times, we haven’t made the Grand final since then, all my career I’ve played in the NBL, I never made a state team as a young fella, so I really didn’t have a whole lot of highlights. I said on that video, that this is my highlight: you know, making a 14-man squad to go to London for a pre-Olympic tournament so, if nothing else, it’s the highlight of my career. It’s the high point right now and it’s something that, if someone says now ‘What did you do in your basketball career?’ ‘Well, I went to the London 2012 Olympics’, and that’s something that I’m really proud of. It hasn’t really sunk in too much yet. As I said, we’ve just been in camp and it’s just been about making sure you’re doing the right things each training session and even when you go home for six days it was just about making sure that you get your shots up, making sure you’re getting ready for the next camp, so it hasn’t sort of set in too much and you don’t like to look too far forward or too far back, but I sort of want to try and stay in the moment and go from there. At the same time, it’s pretty exciting at this point in time.

It’s a great story, and there are a lot of kids out there that will be thinking, ‘I didn’t make a state team, or I’ve never had an AIS scholarship’ — you’re an inspiration to those kids.

PC: Yeah, exactly. To be honest, I say to people, you know, ‘I didn’t make a state team because I wasn’t that good. I didn’t make this team because I wasn’t that good and I didn’t make that team because I wasn’t that good.’ You just keep improving. Being involved in the program last year, it gave me a goal. I felt that they needed a shooter. But I thought to myself, they could go with a shooter, or they could go with a defender, they could go with another two-guard, they could go with a point guard, they could go with a versatile big. It’s just, throw your hat in the ring and see what happens and I’m pretty happy that it turned out the way that it did.

I’m not here to prove a point to anyone, or stick it up anyone. I just feel honoured and privileged to be in the position I’m in and I feel like that the most enjoyment I’ve got out of it has been the reaction off other people when the team got announced. And still, people are just so happy, and how shocked people are that I’ve made something. It just shows how many people care. And that is a really big thing for me as well, knowing that that many people are involved. And also, all the guys that I’ve worked out with, playing since I was 19, the coaches and all the players… if it wasn’t for this guy that year — we were workout buddies and we worked out in the off-season — or this guy here and that guy there, I just feel like I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them so it feels like it’s a part of everyone, the fact that I’m here. I wasn’t the guy that was always going to make it, I was always the guy that was working out with the other guy that was also not going to make it either. So hopefully those other guys are now thinking the same thing, that anything is possible. You know, right place, right time, keep working on your game and hopefully something good will happen.   

Brett has said around practice that he’s really happy with your attitude: that you’re just coming in there and knocking shots. Is that how you’re going to approach the Olympics? When the opportunities come, just get in there and get shots up?

PC: Yeah. I’ve thought about this a lot and you think about yourself as a twelfth man, you know, I’m going to go to the Olympics, I may not play much, I may play a little, but I make sure I enjoy the Olympics. I’ve flipped that around! I’m going there to play basketball. If there’s a chance for me to play minutes, be fearless! Play the way you play when you’re a leader for the Townsville Crocodiles. Make plays. No one knows who I am and I don’t expect anyone to know who I am. Realistically, I’ve looked at it and thought ‘If you’re open, catch and shoot it. If not, get it to the bigger, faster, stronger guys and let them do their thing’. I think, be fearless, go out there, don’t be afraid to chase rebounds, make plays, get a steal and knock down a shot and shoot it when you’re open. Basketball’s a funny thing. Yesterday I had probably one of the best training sessions I’ve had for a long time, but the day before I felt like I had one of my worst. I sort of sat down and thought, I need to think about this a bit more and prove to myself that it can be done. And the same thing will happen when I get out there. It’s all just basketball. If you can make the ball go in, then it’s not that hard really. Especially when you’re surrounded by the talent that we’ve got in this team, it makes it really easy for me. But it doesn’t matter whether you’re playing against Brazil, you’re playing against Spain and these guys are on 20 million dollar, five-year-deals… who cares? If you’re open, knock down a shot and move on. It’s an honour and a privilege to be on the court with these guys, let’s not waste an opportunity.

Chris Anstey said recently, with your twelfth man, you want to take someone completely different, someone who, if the team is getting beaten, you can throw them in and get something completely different to maybe turn a game around. Are you that guy? 

PC: Yes and no. I’ve never played in a big tournament before, so I’m going back to my under 16s days where I was playing for Mount Eliza or Townsville and you know, in tournaments, one team can really screw up another team’s bracket because some guy got hot at some point in time, or someone getting injured or something happening, so I definitely feel like I can come in, knock down a couple of shots and that could change the flow of the game. I think as the bench guys though, you need to have an energy about the group, be enthusiastic — there’s a whole lot more to it than coming out and knocking shots. Being involved, being engaged in the game, making sure everyone else is being engaged, giving advice where it is needed, a bit of a gee up and a rev up when it is needed as well, so, at the same point in time, the second five has to be able to push the starting five at training to make the team better and the ‘Gold’ had a good little click going and if we can build on that then that’s going to make the ‘Green’ team better and so, as for coming in and changing a game: sure. If I get open I feel like I’ve done enough work to be able to knock down a shot from anywhere as long as I’m open. You know? I think we’ve got enough talent around for guys to create that for different guys. We’ve got some guys who can penetrate really well and kick out to open shooters, so if the opportunity comes, hopefully I can get the job done.  

I’ve been watching the Boomers for a long time and I’ve seen a lot of big tournaments and there always seems to be that one game where no one can hit a shot. I can just see, that’s PC’s moment.

PC: I hope so. And that’s a totally different role that I’ve had in the last couple of years in the NBL. You know, you have your rhythm to get going, but it’s something that I’ve been working on and it’s something that I’ve been practicing and I would be lying if I said that, since November or December I’ve been shooting up shot after shot after shot after training and every now and then it doesn’t… you know, a lot of stuff goes through your mind when you’re shooting — sometimes it’s a song, sometimes you’re pissed off about training, and other times you’re just like, ‘I want to receive this pass from a Boomer and you know, I’m going to knock this shot down in a big game’. And that’s what drives you to keep going and to keep hitting those targets and that’s what makes you sit there for half an hour and hit those targets as well. You’re getting me excited, but if that opportunity comes, hopefully I’ll knock down a couple of jumpers and swing the momentum and hopefully the boys can run with it from there… who knows?