Versatility is a valuable weapon in women’s college basketball.
Weapons as a whole are often far more dangerous when they go undetected.
That’s what makes Leanne Crockett so vital to the Central Connecticut women’s basketball program in the midst of this year’s incredible turnaround. Crockett, a sophomore from Manchester, Conn., has the ability to play anywhere on the court.
With all her talent, she has a soft-spoken andfocused demeanor. That allows her to go relatively unnoticed during game play, until you look at the stat line and see the numbers she produces.
“She just makes a difference,” said head coach Beryl Piper.
Inside the paint, she has proven that she can hang with the best in the Northeast Conference, ranking in the top five in rebounds per game as a sophomore.
“She’s a big, strong kid,” explained Piper. “I’m not sure there’s a player in the conference that is as physically strong as Leanne is.”
That strength allows her to pull down over eight rebounds a game despite being just a shade under six feet tall. Away from the basket, Crockett makes just as much of a difference to the team. She averages ten points per game, and has shot better than 38 percent from beyond the arc this season. She has made more three-pointers this season than anyone else in the Northeast Conference and is in the top ten for rebounding.
“I think the kids want her to take the game-winning shot,” Piper said. “It’s funny, when she shoots, [the team] is always saying ‘knock, knock’ because they just assume it’s going to go in the basket all the time.”
With Central’s rebirth from 4-25 overall just a year ago to being seeded second in the NEC Tournament next week, such success may be unfamiliar to some of her teammates. However, Crockett is no stranger to big games or success in them. In 2003 and 2005, she helped lead the Manchester High School Indians to Class LL State Titles.
Playing alongside Crockett at MHS was teammate-turned-conference rival Khalia Cain, now of Sacred Heart.
“It was weird playing against her,” said Crockett. “I played with her for three years at the high school and she’s a good player. It was funny being on different teams.”
The two played against one another for the first time on January 31 at the William H. Pitt Center. While Cain’s Pioneers got the 76-64 victory, Crockett had the better stats on the day, scoring nine points and grabbing ten rebounds.
High school basketball also allowed Crockett to become more familiar with Piper.
“It worked out because I knew Piper from Manchester,” referring to Piper’s time as head coach of New Britain High’s basketball program.
With Manchester in the same conference as the Golden Hurricanes, the two were acquainted with one another and would soon cross paths in the future.Crockett attended the University of Maryland-Baltimore County her first year out of high school, but returned home after one year to enroll at CCSU.
“I liked the kids on the team, the coaching staff was nice, [but] it just wasn’t a good fit for me,” Crockett explains. “I just didn’t really like it there. I never felt comfortable.”
A return closer to home is apparently just what the doctor ordered for the Connecticut native. She sat out the 2007-08 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but was still able to practice and be around the team. That allowed her to have perspective on what the differences are between last year’s struggles and the accomplishments this season.
“We know how to finish and win games now,” she said. Winning certainly is made easier when Central’s team added a player who went on to win the NEC Rookie of the Week award twice, named among the top rebounders in the NEC, and nearly averages a doubledouble on the season.
Not only is she beneficial to the basketball team, but one school’s loss is the gain of two athletic programs. Crockett will also be competing as a member of the women’s track team in the throwing events. Last season she threw the javelin and discus, and placed third in the Yale Springtime Invitational with a javelin toss in excess of 31 meters.
For now, her sole focus is leading the women’s basketball program to a NEC Championship. When asked about the young team’s potential, her outlook is bright.
“We’re only going to continue to get better,” she said. The same goes for Central’s most versatile weapon.
-Kyle Dorau, Sports Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org