|With plenty of heart, a Southern Utah guard plays with only one hand|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 08 March 2008 13:36|
Dax took to standing on his chair to make sure the teacher would see him. The teacher called the boy's father.
``He just laughed at her,'' Crum recalled. ``He said, 'You're making it a game and he likes to win.'''
There's something else to remember about Dax Crum. That hand he used to raise so eagerly in first grade was the only one he had.
Crum, a senior guard at Southern Utah, was born with only a left hand. Yet he still plays well enough to be part of an NCAA Division I program. It was what he wanted to do all along. And those who mocked him as a kid and told him he couldn't play basketball didn't stand a chance.
Crum's playing career will end with Southern Utah's season. The Thunderbirds open the Summit League tournament against IPFW on Sunday in Tulsa.
The fact that he has had a college career at all amazes everybody but Crum. It's hard to notice there's something different about him when he's playing. He can dribble on either side, although he's definitely better with his left. His right arm ends at the wrist, other than an extension that looks like a finger. There's not much he can do with the finger alone, but combined with the stump at the end of his wrist he can control and hold the ball.
He plays aggressive defense and is quick with his left hand and looks like anybody else when he shoots.
He said sometimes opponents don't even notice until the post-game handshake.
Southern Utah assistant Ron Carling said about a month into the season, he told his wife he couldn't believe that he was coaching a one-handed player. Karin Carling had watched the games from the bleachers and hadn't noticed.
``She said, 'Which one is it?,''' Carling said.
Crum kind of prefers it that way. This has been his life, not a novelty show. His biography in Southern Utah's media guide makes no mention that he lacks a hand. But Crum, quiet and modest, understands why he's considered a standout without being a star.
Crum is an average shooter from the floor, but he's made 18 of 19 free throws this season. That's almost 95 percent, a total most players with two hands can't match.
``I'd like to be known as a good basketball player,'' Crum said. ``A good one-handed basketball player wouldn't bother me, either.''
Crum walked on at Southern Utah in 2005-06 and played in 11 games. He sat out last season, taking his redshirt and graduating, and planned to return to the team last fall as a graduate student. But when new coach Roger Reid was hired, he told Crum his chances of making the team were slim.
If Reid expected that to be enough to discourage Crum, he was mistaken.
``It's a marvel and a great story about a young man that has said I can do it instead of 'I can't do it,''' said Reid, who started Crum in the last six games of the regular season. ``He's earned it. He could have quit many, many times.''
Crum wasn't recruited for basketball despite winning three New Mexico state titles at Kirtland Central High School. He also excelled in soccer and went to Arizona Western junior college on a soccer scholarship. He also played basketball there before transferring to Southern Utah.
He played in 11 games for the Thunderbirds his first season, then took last year off. When Reid was hired, Crum met with the new coach and learned he would have to try out again to make the team.
``I didn't like being told that, 'You can't do this. You're not going to be a basketball player,''' Crum said. ``Well, why not? People don't want to answer that question.''
Lately, fewer have been asking.