Around 5:00 a.m. on Nov. 18, 2011, Carissa Crutchfield, along with the rest of the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team, received a text message which called for a team meeting. Sound asleep, Crutchfield did not hear the text and had to be awakened by her roommate.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” Crutchfield said.
Her already jarring morning was about to take a dramatic turn for the worse. At the team meeting, the players would learn that their head coach, Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna, whom Crutchfield called one her closest coaches, had been killed in a plane crash returning from a recruiting trip.
“It was a devastating moment,” recalls Crutchfield.
It was a moment that would jolt the life of the college sophomore.
Crutchfield attended Fort Gibson High School in Muskogee, Okla. After spending her entire life in the Sooner state, Crutchfield chose to attend college in Stillwater, just over 100 miles from home, to remain close to her family.
“I’m really close with my family and being an hour and a half away was perfect,” Crutchfield said. “And Oklahoma State is a really good school.”
In her first two seasons as a Cowgirl, the team went a combined 39-27 with the 2012 WNIT title to boot. And all of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, Crutchfield’s world came to a halt.
When she got the news, Crutchfield felt the need to move on. After what she calls an “emotional rollercoaster”, Crutchfield enrolled at Arizona.
“(Former Wildcat assistant coach Brandy) Manning recruited me and I knew this was a great school and a great opportunity,” Crutchfield said. “I knew this was going to be a good fit and it was.”
Moving away from a place where she had spent the first 20 years of her life made for a tough transition, but as time has passed, it is one that has turned Crutchfield into a stronger, more mature individual.
“She has grown a lot in the last year,” assistant coachCalamity McEntire, now in her second year with the program said. “She has gotten settled here and knows that what we expect out of our point guards is to be a second voice of Coach Butts on the floor.”
After shining in her reserve role at Oklahoma State, Crutchfield stepped in immediately as Arizona’s starting point guard for the 2012-13 season. As a junior, Crutchfield started 29 of Arizona’s 30 games and was second on the team with 2.8 assists per game. The transfer made 40 percent of her field goals, including a team-best 33 percent from behind the arc.
In 2013, Crutchfield shared the backcourt with one of the nation’s best guards. Davellyn Whyte, arguably the best player in Arizona women’s basketball history, averaged 16.8 points per game during the campaign.
Crutchfield will be without Whyte in 2014, meaning the Muskogee native will have to assume even more responsibility as a senior.
“Dav played a really big part in being a leader last year,” said Crutchfield. “I know we need someone to step in. I knew that was going to be one of the roles I would have to take over. Now I’m ready to step up to the plate and help us get better.”
It has been a long road for Crutchfield, one with plenty of tumultuous terrain and sharp turns, but the 5-8 guard has overcome the challenges.
Now, in her senior season, it is Crutchfield’s time to shine, but the humble, team-first player will never admit to it.
“Whatever it takes to get us wins,” she said.
As the point guard and heart and soul of the team, the true statistical measure of a point guard is the team’s win-loss record and now the four-year veteran understands that.
“I just have to come in and lead,” Crutchfield said. “Lead by example and have positive energy.”
Her coaches embrace that positivity.
“I think Crutch is someone who comes in and has joy on her face all the time,” McEntire said. “If it’s early-morning workouts, she comes in and says, ‘Good morning coaches, how you doin’?’ She is somebody that is always joyful. And because she is vocal, she’s always talking on the court and whether she is leading by example, or leading by telling others what to do, she is very good at the way she comes across to her teammates.”
However, Crutchfield’s impact goes well beyond the intangibles.
“She’s a great defensive player on the ball and she has an outstanding jumper,” said McEntire. “When she stays rested and stays focused, I think she can help us put some points on the board.”
Now, after tragedy has bred opportunity, Crutchfield is preparing for her final season as a collegiate basketball player. After a windy journey, it is time to see what Crutchfield has in store for her swan song.