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Front Page » March 30, 2010 » Carbon Sports » CEU's Craig sees players as people
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CEU's Craig sees players as people


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By MICHAEL OVERSON
Sun Advocate reporter

Coach Chris Craig puts his players first as people, athletes second. His greatest pleasure comes from watching his players succeed on and off the basketball court. Being a coach at a community college, he has a lot more opportunity to get to know his players as people not just athletes he coaches. Seeing his players advance in their athletic careers as well as continue their education gives him great joy.

Every team in the NJCAA wants to go to Hutchinson, Kan., because it's the ultimate prize. This year he led the Golden Eagles of CEU to the tournament for the first time in 45 years. Another first this year was the holding of the SWAC tournament in Price. During the game to send CEU to nationals against Mesa Community College, the Eagles were struggling but the overwhelming reaction of CEU's fans was tremendous in moral boosting Craig said.

Having so many new players the start of the season made for tough play for the Eagles. The team played zone defense early in the season which caught a lot of teams off guard. Getting the team to play cohesively was something that had to be learned a few times throughout the season. Craig's views on recruitment show in how his teams play together. Getting players who are good people and hardworking is important to him. Having someone who is willing to play as a team and put in effort to further his team.

Having a team play well together is important early on but as a coach you want to play your best basketball during February and March according to Craig. Region 18, according to Craig, is arguably the toughest in the nation. Having to play schools like NIC, CSI, SLCC and Snow four times a year, five if you play them in the region tournament, almost guarantees that you won't come away without a loss or two. The losing team has the advantage in this region, after losing they have something to work towards. Whoever comes out of our conference will be competitors at Hutch, teams have already been through 15 wars by the time the season ends he said.

Where he is doesn't matter much to Craig, "I can be happy anywhere," Craig said. After being born in St. Louis, Missouri his family moved to Germany and lived there until age six when he was moved to Phoenix. He grew up in the Phoenix area and attended Horizon High School. His collegiate career started at Arizona Western Junior College and finished at UTEP (University of Texas El Paso). After college he played in Ireland for a year and acted as his teams head coach. Leaving Ireland he went to Switzerland where he was assistant coach and player simultaneously. "When you are playing you never think you'll coach but after you're done it's kind of like now what?" Craig noted.

Goals are important to give something a team to work towards. However Craig lets his players decide what their goals are. "My goals are more journey goals, like be the toughest team or give it your all each and every practice," he said. With this generation especially players tend to think of the end result and aren't willing to do the little things that will get them there. It's important to not lose focus on what has to be done to achieve the end result like going to Hutch. "I want my guys to go to class, act right way in community, give right effort, those things add up to winning. I like focusing on those typically winning takes care of itself," Craig said.

Coaching at the junior college level works well for him. With this job he can focus on coaching, he is really involved with his players lives. Having variety of duties ranging from being the weights coach, academic adviser and of course head coach he is allowed more one on one time with his players.

Some high points of the season according to Craig would include winning the SWAC tournament at home. Playing Mesa Community College at SLCC was a great show of just how much the community supported the team. Craig mentioned how the team was having difficulties in that game and the crowd presence helped the Eagles overcome their opponents. The low point would have to be when we played Howard according to Craig. After that loss having the team still come out and give it their all against Navarro was incredible to see.

The game against Navarro showed the level of talent and competitiveness that the Eagles had. Trailing most of the game and having Leon Sutton, the team captain, come off the bench and lead his team to victory was astounding. "You won't find a person to be a teammate other than Leon, he put this team on his back both emotionally and mentally," Craig said. Sutton didn't play many minutes this season but when he did he always stepped up. In the biggest game of the season he fired up the team as he had done before.

His plans for the future include staying in Price for the foreseeable future. "One day I'll probably move up to bigger schools but right now I'm happy where I'm at. I'm still young and in no hurry to get out of Price," he said.

Becoming the head coach of a college while still young Craig is grateful to the school and community for the opportunity to step into that role. When asked about his key players this year he mentioned that it's the whole team that wins. "A few players will get the glory for winning but without the rest of the team supporting them they wouldn't get anywhere. I relate it to the body of Christ in the bible, this player may be the heart and another one a fingernail, but without all of the pieces you don't have something whole," he said. by the time the season ends he said.

Where he is doesn't matter much to Craig, "I can be happy anywhere," he said. After being born in St. Louis, Missouri his family moved to Germany and lived there until age six when he was moved to Phoenix. He grew up in the Phoenix area and attended Horizon High School. His collegiate career started at Arizona Western Junior College and finished at UTEP (University of Texas El Paso). After college he played in Ireland for a year and acted as his teams head coach. Leaving Ireland he went to Switzerland where he was assistant coach and player simultaneously. "When you are playing you never think you'll coach but after you're done it's kind of like now what?" Craig noted.

Goals are important to give something a team to work towards. However Craig lets his players decide what their goals are. "My goals are more journey goals, like be the toughest team or give it your all each and every practice," he said. With this generation especially players tend to think of the end result and aren't willing to do the little things that will get them there. It's important to not lose focus on what has to be done to achieve the end result like going to Hutch. "I want my guys to go to class, act right way in community, give right effort, those things add up to winning. I like focusing on those typically winning takes care of itself," Craig said.

Coaching at the junior college level works well for him. With this job he can focus on coaching. Also he is really involved with his players lives. Having variety of duties ranging from being the weights coach, academic adviser and of course head coach he is allowed more one-on-one time with his players.

Some high points of the season according to Craig would include winning the SWAC tournament at home. Playing Mesa Community College at SLCC was a great show of just how much the community supported the team. Craig mentioned how the team was having difficulties in that game and the crowd presence helped the Eagles overcome their opponents. "The low point would have to be when we played Howard," Craig said. After that loss having the team still come out and give it their all against Navarro was incredible to see.

The game against Navarro showed the level of talent and competitiveness that the Eagles had. Trailing most of the game and having Leon Sutton, the team captain, come off the bench and lead his team to victory was astounding. "You won't find a person to be a teammate other than Leon, he put this team on his back both emotionally and mentally," Craig said. Sutton didn't play many minutes this season but when he did he always stepped up. In the biggest game of the season he fired up the team as he had done before.

His plans for the future include staying in Price for the foreseeable future. "One day I'll probably move up to bigger schools but right now I'm happy where I'm at. I'm still young and in no hurry to get out of Price," he said.

Becoming the head coach of a college while still young, Craig is grateful to the school and community for the opportunity to step into that role. When asked about his key players this year he mentioned that it's the whole team that wins. "A few players will get the glory for winning but without the rest of the team supporting them they wouldn't get anywhere. I relate it to the body of Christ in the bible, this player may be the heart and another one a fingernail, but without all of the pieces you don't have something whole," he said.

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March 30, 2010
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