Crews-ing to Eastern Oregon
LA GRANDE: Centralia Alum Madi Crews Moving On After Two Years of Basketball at Lower Columbia
By Matt Baide
Madi Crews has had two great years at Lower Columbia as a student-athlete and has earned herself two more years on the court, signing to play basketball at Eastern Oregon University next season.
The journey to La Grande has been a story of passion for the game of basketball for Crews. She was one of the leaders of the Red Devils squad that finished 23-9 this season and second in the West Region.
“I think overall, it was a good year for me. I grew a lot as a person and a player between the beginning of my freshman year and the end of my sophomore year,” Crews said. “I think that kind of showed a lot in a lot of the things I did this year, in my academics and on the court as a leader and just as an overall basketball player. I was pretty happy with how the year went overall.”
Crews played in all 32 games this season, leading the team with an average of 32.6 minutes per game. She shot 41 percent from the field and shot 33.5 percent from behind the arc, averaging 9.6 points per game.
“I think as an overall basketball player. I improved a lot in a lot of different areas, my decision making skills on the court became a lot better than from my freshman year, and my basketball IQ raised a lot,” Crews said. “Chad (Meadors) taught me a lot as a point guard and a shooting guard in the last two years so being able to work with him and Lucas (Myers) and Darren (Schwegler), the two assistant coaches over the last two years, they were able to improve my shot.”
Crews averaged a career-high 5.2 assists this season as she put an emphasis on finding the open player.
“I think that my biggest focus each game was to find all of my teammates because we had so many great shooters. We had a couple really tall posts that if you got them the ball, there was no doubt they were going to put it in the hoop,” Crews said. “That’s kind of what I worked on during the year. Every time in practice, I was just working on getting a pass in any way I could.”
Before coming to Lower Columbia, she was the star player for the Centralia Tigers. During her junior year, she knew she wanted to become a Red Devil when she visited the college to watch her mom, Sandy, get inducted into the LCC Hall of Fame.
“I knew a lot about LCC because my mom played here a while ago,” Crews said. “She got inducted into the hall of fame so I got to come down and like meet everybody and I just knew that this was going to be a place that I could call a home.”
Her freshman year, Crews was on a Red Devils squad that finished the season in the Elite 8, falling to Walla Walla, 63-57. She entered her sophomore season as one of four sophomores and after one sophomore went down with a season-ending injury, Crews had to step up and be even more of a leader to the incoming freshman.
“It’s definitely a different type of leadership. It’s more of ‘Hey everybody, get on board, we’re jumping into this thing full speed ahead.’ The freshman this year didn’t really have time to sit around and wait and watch us sophomores do everything,” Crews said. “They had to get their feet wet right away, just give us the best they’ve got. Being able to lead them through that was pretty awesome and to watch them grow throughout the year as well.”
Lower Columbia and Centralia were in the West Region together, playing each other twice per season. The games in Centralia meant more to Crews due to the hometown crowd coming to the games and filling Michael Smith Gymnasium.
“I knew I was going to have a lot of friends and family there, especially at the game in Centralia. It’s always fun going and playing over there and seeing the crowd full, a lot of different fans, it’s always going to be a big game regardless,” Crews said.
With Shanay Dotson and Kenya Lorton being Adna alums, there was always plenty of people cheering for LCC in Centralia.
“It’s just pretty fun to see a lot of faces in the Centralia crowd that we know were cheering for LCC so that was fun,” Crews said. “I have always respected Caleb (Sells) a lot and all the girls on the team. It’s always high energy and those are the types of games I like to play in.”
The Red Devils made another appearance to the Elite 8 this season, losing to Bellevue 70-62. Following the season, Crews wanted to continue her basketball career, but was fielding offers in hopes the right situation would come along.
“It’s always been my goal to get through school with as little debt possible and if basketball is going to be the thing that is going to take me there, I’m going to keep working hard at it and I definitely still love it,” Crews said. “Basketball has been one of my favorite things in my entire life.”
She received an offer from Eastern Oregon and was happy when head coach Anji Weissenfluh and assistant coach Tiffanie Ulmer reminded her of Chad, Darren and Lucas.
It was also a bonus when her LCC teammate Tywanna Abbott also received an offer from EOU.
“To be going a little farther away from home and having somebody that you know is always nice, you don’t feel like you’re completely alone. I also know a couple more kids from Centralia that are playing over there right now,” Crews said. “I really liked that the coaches at Eastern Oregon are definitely about more than just basketball. It’s academics and growing as people and players and they care about us and our lives and they’re not just out there just trying to win a game and doing whatever it takes. They’re focused on more than that.”
On top of that, the team was 31-3 last season and made an appearance in the NAIA National Championship tournament.
“They graduated a bunch of girls so kind of big expectations for the incoming players. I think they have so far, at least four junior college transfers to kind of step in and fill big roles and hopefully keep on that winning streak and get another division championship next year,” Crews said.
Crews is majoring in communications and is excited about her future career ambitions getting started at EOU.
“I want to really figure out exactly what it is I want to do with my life. I have ideas but I’ve already started talking to people that have graduated there in the past with degrees in communications,” Crews said. “They still live in La Grande. I’m starting to make connections and that kind of stuff so I’m excited about my future career plans.”
This summer, Crews plans on working at LCC until she has to head to La Grande in September. She also hopes to get as much family time in as possible, since the option of coming home every weekend won’t be an option while she’s at EOU.
The thing she will miss the most about LCC are the relationships she’s made throughout her time in Longview.
“I’m definitely going to miss the relationships with the people I’ve made here. I’ve made probably the best friends I’ve ever had at LCC and I still talk to them all the time, friends from last year too,” Crews said. “My instructors, my bosses at work, all the advisors that I worked for, they’re just the best people ever and I’ve had the greatest role models the last two years.”
Come next October, she’s hoping to continue winning on a new court with all new teammates and coaches.
“I am excited to have two more years with a different coach,” Crews said. “I would have loved to play with Chad a few more years but having a different coach is going to bring a different style of basketball to my game and new learning opportunities so I’m just excited to grow and get better as a basketball player.”