With the departure of KyKy Tandy, Drew McGowan and TaQuan Hollowell, there were many questions surrounding University Heights Academy boys’ basketball going into the 2019-20 season but that didn’t stop KJ Crump and company from getting to work.
Crump led the Blazers to a perfect 6-0 record in the Eighth District during the regular season and took got them where many didn’t think they’d get. His ability to push his team forward is why he is the 2020 Toyota of Hopkinsville Southern Pennyrile Boys’ Basketball Athlete of the Year.
Crump said everyone questioning UHA at the beginning of the year did nothing but fuel them to start the season.
“It gave us more motivation to beat people and prove people wrong,” Crump said.
With the trio gone from the year before, Crump knew it was his chance to take his game to another level.
“Now we don’t have KyKy, Drew or TaQuan, so someone was going to have to take the role and be a leader,” he said. “We just needed someone that whenever we were having a bad start, just be that leader, be that dog that and get us where we need to get.”
The Blazers didn’t get off to the start they wanted, opening the year with four straight losses.
Crump said they made some adjustments defensively and that is what really helped UHA get going in the right direction.
“We just had to come together as a team,” he said. “Collective defense, help-side defense — just little teamwork things to get back into the flow.”
With what is likely the smallest starting roster in the state, the Blazers finished out the season 15-10 and took home an Eighth District crown along the way.
UHA made a statement early in district play with a 77-50 win over Christian County. Crump said that win felt good because it showed that the Blazers weren’t going away even without the stars from the year prior.
“Everyone thought we weren’t going to be that good ... It was just another point proven that just because we don’t have them doesn’t mean we can’t play either,” he said.
Crump led the way for the Blazers this season, averaging over 20 points per game. When his team needed something, he was always there to deliver.
“It’s always been there, but last year ... We had other pieces where I could facilitate,” Crump said. “This year, sometimes you just got to do it.”
Alongside Will Bryan, Amani McGee, DJ Quarles and Weston Wood, the Blazers were playing the role of David against most teams they faced.
“Since middle school, we’ve always been like that,” Crump said. “We got kind of used to it.”
Crum said it was just good to go out and play with Bryan, McGee and Quarles again, as the four juniors have been playing together for years.
“They’re my brothers,” he said. “It was good to get them back on the floor and play with them and play how we used to. (It was like) Back in eighth grade when we used to get out and run and play scrappy.”
Crump said this year was just the beginning, as he and the Blazers have their eyes on the prize for his final season in green and gold.
“It’s going to be really fun and exciting,” he said. “I think it’s going to be better next year because this year was kind of like a rebuilding year to see what roles we needed to have. Next year, our mindset is to go to Rupp.”