Allen Crabbe can shoot, plain and simple. He’s a shooter. It’s in his blood, pulsing powerfully in his veins.
Just watch him launch a jumper — feet set, flick of the wrist, perfect release. His shooting motion is mechanically sound; his follow-through, flawless. The arc of his 3-pointer, like a rainbow in the crisp Berkeley air, a thing of beauty.
He’s always been a shooter, even as a kid. People thought he resembled a young Reggie Miller.
“In YMCA league … the way he stroked the three, we got a million references to Reggie Miller,” says Crabbe’s father, Allen Crabbe Jr.
It’s not just shooting. The younger Crabbe and the Pacer great share a distinct physical feature too.
“You know, those ears,” says Cheryl Price, his mother. “He looked like Reggie Miller. ‘Give it to Reggie Miller.’ People would always say that.”
Crabbe has yet to score eight points in nine seconds, but the sophomore guard has scored 14 in three minutes, part of a 26-point performance in a road win over Oregon a month ago.
Last season, he set a Cal freshman record for 3-pointers, and this season he has made more threes than any player in the Pac-12. He curls around screens, running up and down the baseline and along the arc, waiting to score. He can knock it down from any spot on the court.
Crabbe’s shot is pure, silky smooth. “We just call it a gift from God,” says his mother.
Why, then, is Allen Lester Crabbe III hesitant to shoot?
Frederick K.C. Price III School is a private, Christian school in Los Angeles. It houses about 200 kids, roughly 80 in high school. Crabbe’s graduating class was 24, the largest ever. The school was not named after his grandfather Frederick Price, the renowned radio and TV evangelist. Rather, it was named for Price’s son, who was hit by a car and died at age 8.
Crabbe says he looks up to his grandfather, whose Sunday Church services are broadcast live and whose ministry has over 20,000 members.
Apparently the quiet, reluctant Crabbe has some similarities to his sermon-speaking grandfather.
“Outside of what he does, he’s quiet,” Cheryl Price says of her father. “Not one to do small talk. He reminds me so much of Allen.”
Crabbe, meanwhile, has said he wants to be like his famous granddad. The spiritual life, yes, but maybe not so much with the speeches.
Since he was two, Crabbe has let his game do the talking. He insisted on going outside to play ball as a toddler. Inside, there were nerf balls everywhere, miniature hoops stuck on the back of doors and drawers. He joined an organized league at five. At six, he was sinking threes on a regular basis.
“He scored 30 points in a YMCA league at six years old,” Crabbe’s father says. “I always told him to respect the gift that God gave you.”
His legend grew. There was the 40-point game as an 8-year-old, the junior high playoff game in which Crabbe had 40 of his team’s 48 points.
He’d go to the gym with his father and make 1,000 shots — not take, make.
Through 11th grade, half of the shots he was taking in games were 3-pointers. Price kept her son’s stats all throughout his childhood. She has boxes full of papers from YMCA leagues and junior high.
“From age 8 to 14, it was probably all long-distance shooting,” Price says. “He didn’t particularly care for contact.”
When he arrived in Berkeley, though, the 6-foot-6, 205-pounder wasn’t even shooting much.
“In the beginning, it was real rough for me,” Crabbe says. “I wasn’t aggressive at all. I was passing up shots because I didn’t know if it was a good shot for me or not.”
Something clicked when Pac-10 rolled around. Part of it had to do with the departure of fellow freshman Gary Franklin, a gunner who transferred to Baylor.
Or maybe it just took Crabbe two months to break out of his “little shy-show,” as he calls it.
After Cal’s conference opener, he scored in double figures in the next 10 games. He hit 20 in four of the season’s last five. Behind his 3-point shooting, Crabbe was named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.
Nearly half of his shot attempts were from behind the arc. And that hasn’t changed much this season. His numbers have spiked during his sophomore campaign, averaging a team-high 15.6 points (two points better than last year).
Yet he’s still reluctant to put the ball on the floor and penetrate the lane. Sometimes he’ll even pass up open jumpers.
“I still feel like I do the same things sometimes, but I just feel like it’s not me being aggressive — I just take myself out of the game if I miss a couple of shots or something’s not going the way I want it,” he says. “I let that affect me too much, and that’s not good at all. I really just completely shut down.”
He’s not a selfish, shoot-first gunner by nature. It’s just his personality. He has the potential to go off. He can take over, but he only does so in spurts.
When he took over the game against the Ducks last month, Crabbe says he felt like every shot he took would go in. Sometimes all he needs is one to get going, and one 3-pointer at the 11-minute mark led to three more treys in the next three minutes.
But not every game is like that for Crabbe.
“I just don’t like making mistakes, and I don’t take those risks, and that’s what really holds me back,” Crabbe says. “I’m trying to play a perfect game and not turning the ball over, but I just have to realize that you’re gonna make mistakes … because you’re not just going to be perfect.”
Crabbe talks about the confidence he needs in his ball handling to create his own shot. He talks about playing too cautiously.
“Sometime we’re out there, we think, ‘Why, Allen? Just shoot the ball,’” his mom says. “It’s something that comes within him … He has to get comfortable.”
He’s found other ways to impact the game. He’s Cal’s leading rebounder. His defense is vastly improved; he has no problem guarding opponents’ top scorer.
Still, the Bears need his scoring. His free throw shooting is a team-best 83 percent, but he doesn’t get to the line enough to even qualify for Pac-12 statistics.
“I feel like I just fall in love with my 3-point shot,” Crabbe says. “But I feel like I can score in any number of ways — I just don’t do it. And I don’t know why I don’t do it, it’s just something that I have to develop.”
Crabbe prays prior to each game. He says a confession, and then right before the game, he says a little prayer. They’re basketball-related, of course — play with confidence, stay free from injury.
Cal fans probably pray he shoots more, and drives to the basket.
Crabbe has the green light in coach Mike Montgomery’s offense. Crabbe can pretty much shoot whenever and wherever he wants. He’d rather pass, though, or look for a better shot that he’ll usually pass up.
“Allen is not a selfish ball player; I wish he was,” says his father, laughing. “He defers. I think that’ll come with time. I tease him, ‘You gotta let that beast out.’”
Is there a beast, though? Allen Crabbe will never be Allen Iverson. It’s just not in his personality, not in his heart or bones.
He understands what he needs to do. He understands what he needs to work on. He just needs time, and at 19 years old, he has plenty of it.
Someday, Allen Lester Crabbe III will make the leap.
His mother believes it:
“We’re all waiting.”