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Kendell Craig proud to be a Mama’s Boy

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Some might get upset, consider it a diss. But not Kendell Craig. He is proud to be a Mama’s Boy.

“I love my mom, I’d do anything for her,” Craig said. “A lot of games she can’t make, but I just do everything for her. All the press clippings, I give them to her, the [New York Collegiate Athletic Conference] all-tournament trophy is her’s.”

Craig, a 6-foot-3 small forward out of Jamaica, is averaging 17.1 points per game for Adelphi, the No. 1 ranked Division II in the country with a 31-0 record. The Panthers take on Tampa in the Elite Eight in Bakersfield, Calif. in a game scheduled for Wednesday.

“I’m so happy I’m here,” Craig said. “Not many people get the opportunity to play on an undefeated team.”

And, according to Craig, he wouldn’t have had that opportunity if it wasn’t for his mother, Mildred Craig.

Craig said it was his mother who pushed him to play basketball at a young age as a way to keep him off the streets and out of trouble.

Soon enough Craig was playing in the parks with his older brother and their friends. He said the experience made him a tougher player.

“In the parks, you don’t really get the foul calls,” he said. “They beat on me. I took my hits, but it makes me stronger.”

Craig went on to play in the Catholic High School League at Holy Cross for Jim Kerr and eventually Paul Gilvary. While it took a while for him to come into his own in the league, Craig said it was yet another experience that prepared him for college ball.

“That is one tough league to play in, all the best players go there,” he said. “In the Catholic League, it’s not a one-on-one game, there are four other players on the court with you and you have to play as a unit.”

Craig excelled in his senior year with the Knights but did not get much notice from college coaches. One school that offered Craig a scholarship was Division II Mercy in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

Craig instantly became Mercy’s go-to player, averaging 17.3 points per game. But he quickly became disinterested in being a big fish in a small pond. While he was playing well, Craig yearned to be back in a team environment. He found that when he transferred to Adelphi.

“At Mercy I was the first option on offense and teams could just lock down on me,” Craig said. “Here it’s not like that. When you play a team game, shots come to you.”

In his first year at Adelphi, Craig averaged 17.1 points per game and started all 29 games for a Panthers team that went 23-7 and advanced to the Sweet 16 for a second straight year.

But things haven’t been completely rosy for Craig in this magical season. Adelphi coach Jim Ferry suspended Craig for one week for violating team policy in January. During that time the Panthers, who beat opponents by an average of 21 points, struggled in wins over New York Tech, New Haven and Queens College.

“Every night on the court I wanted to be out there. I knew if we lost it was my fault,” Craig said. “As a person, sometimes I’m selfish. My mom brought that to my attention. I know I messed up. Now the team comes before anything.”

The suspension was an awakening for Craig, who came back with a vengeance. He scored his 1,000th point Jan 15. against C.W. Post. He had a season-high 29 points against Post on Feb. 14.

After being named to the NYCAC all-tournament team, Craig had 17 points and five boards in an 87-66 drubbing of league foe Philadelphia University in the Northeast Regional at SUNY-Old Westbury March 9. He followed that with a 15-point, eight-rebound game in a 78-64 win over St. Michael’s to win the Northeast Regional as the Panthers advanced to the Elite Eight.

“This is the year, this the moment,” Craig said. “I want to put something in the trophy case. I want to make my mom even happier.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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