Dermaine Crockrell brought stability to Bemidji State's starting lineup in recent weeks with a playing style that helps open up spaces on the court for teammates around him.
"I guess I'm like a road runner - I'm real fast," said Crockrell, a 6-foot-1, 150 pound guard. "I try to play fast and I'm a little guy so I have to play strong, flop a little bit every now and then, but try to play hard every time."
Crockrell's speed and shooting ability has also improved the versatility of Bemidji State's offense. The Beavers are 4-1 since he made his season debut Dec. 16.
The junior transfer from Mesa, Ariz., is averaging 13 points per game heading into this weekend's critical home series against No. 21 St. Cloud State (Friday, 8 p.m.) and Concordia-St. Paul (Saturday, 6 p.m.) at BSU Gymnasium.
Crockrell came to Bemidji State from Scottsdale Community College where he averaged 18.7 points per game last year and was a Division III Third Team All-American.
Crockrell said BSU graduate assistant coach Kevin Williamson helped convince him to attend and play at BSU. Williamson was an assistant coach in at Glendale Community College in 2009-10 where he coached current BSU players Ryan Kinnell and James Ellisor.
"I just felt real comfortable here and I wanted honest people around me," Crockrell said. "That's what made my decision."
Crockrell played junior college games against Ellisor, who leads BSU in scoring and leads the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference at 20.9 points per game.
"He was a great player, underrated and no one knew about him," Crockrell said. "But I got to play against him so I knew he was a great player."
Crockrell spent the fall semester working on coursework to become eligible, met the requirements and started his first game for the Beavers in a home victory over Northern State.
Crockrell said he felt some nerves heading into the game as the Beavers had won seven of the first 10 games to open the season.
"The guys were winning without me and I felt like if I didn't come in and win, I would be a little upset," said Crockrell, who said he's still making adjustments to the Division II style of play. "That's what it's all about. I just want to win and I had a little bit of pressure, so I was just trying not to do so much when I'm in there."
Crockrell had his best game yet the following night in a win over U-Mary with a 21-point effort and had 19 points in the 103-93 double overtime loss to then-No. 21 Augustana on the road last Friday.
"He's helped," Bowen said. "I think he's just scratched the surface and I think he's going to have some real big nights. It's a big transition from junior college basketball to Division II basketball let alone moving from Arizona to Minnesota. For him to pick it up after a semester where everyone else has had time, he's doing a heck of a job."
Bowen played five different starting lineups through the first 10 games this year. Crockrell, Ellisor, Bryce Tesdahl, Mason Walters and Lance Rongstad have started the last five straight games to keep the Beavers in the thick of the hunt for a home playoff game.
The Beavers (11-4, 6-3 NSIC) enter this weekend tied for fourth in the conference standings, are one game back of St. Cloud State in third, and two games back of NSIC-leading MSU, Moorhead and Winona State.
The top four teams in the standings at the end of the regular season host a single-elimination game in the eight-team playoff. The winners advance to the NSIC final four tournament in Rochester.
"'Anything's possible' like Kevin Garnett said," Crockrell said. "The sky's the limit for our team. We have good guards and we have good post players. We have it all."