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Tim O

Basketball gives Crecco a world of experience

  • Kirk Crecco

    Kirk Crecco

  • Kirk Crecco

    Kirk Crecco

  • Kirk Crecco

    Kirk Crecco

  • Kirk Crecco
  • Kirk Crecco
  • Kirk Crecco

While most college basketball players dream of the NBA, playing professionally in Europe has its advantages. Players are exposed to new cultures, languages and experiences, and they can grow on and off the court. That’s certainly been the case for Gilford’s Kirk Crecco, who is broadening his horizons in multiple directions.

Despite a quiet career at Dartmouth (2.7 points and 9.5 minutes per game), Crecco still had pro basketball dreams, so he marketed himself to European clubs and landed himself a job in Luxembourg last season. Not only did Crecco wind up as the league’s leading scorer (28.6 ppg), he traveled the continent, absorbed a foreign culture and began writing a book.

Crecco has moved to the British Basketball League this season and is playing for the Durham Wildcats, but that’s not all he’s doing. The

Gilford High grad is enrolled in an accelerated graduate school program at Durham University and working on a second book. Plus, injuries to other players have forced the 6-foot-4 Crecco to move from guard to power forward, making him learn a new position, but that’s just fine with Crecco.

“I’m basically looking at it as a way to improve aspects of my skill set that I’ve never really thought about before, and whatever I can do to help the team, I’m happy to do,” Crecco said. “I also think it’s a reflection on one of the best parts about being in Europe, because being over here has forced me to become really flexible and to learn on the fly. Last year it was more about lifestyle, and the language barrier, and the different culture, and this year it’s more about adapting in terms of basketball.”

On the court

After averaging 16 points per game as a starting guard during the BBL preseason, Crecco’s numbers have taken a hit since he moved into a reserve forward role and he’s averaging 7.9 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists through 17 games with the Wildcats. Part of that is due to the position change and part to the league change.

“Kirk got off to a very good start over the preseason period, but like everyone, there was an adjustment period to the league,” Durham Coach Lee Davie said.

“The level of play in England is higher than it was in Luxembourg,” Crecco said. “I would generalize it by saying there are three tiers in Europe and Luxembourg was a lower level league, England is in the middle, and Spain and Italy are the high level.”

Crecco had no trouble with the level of play on Friday night when he scored a season-high 22 points in 20 minutes off the bench in the Wildcats’ 102-55 victory over Surrey United. He was 7-for-10 from 2-point range, 1-for-4 from 3, 5-for-5 at the line, had six rebounds, three assists, no turnovers and was voted the game’s MVP by Durham fans. He might get used to this power forward thing after all.

“When playing (power forward), sometimes Kirk is outsized by bigger, stronger guys, but he can hold his ground and then use his speed and quickness to get around them and attack the passing lanes,” Davie said. “But what most people forget is that those bigger, stronger guys need to try to keep up with Kirk in transition, and then try to keep him in front of them in the half. Kirk’s been great all year long at getting into the lane, finishing, and drawing fouls to get to the line.”

At school

Grengewald, the team Crecco played for last year, asked him to stay in Luxembourg. But Crecco, as usual, was looking for a new challenge. So he went to Las Vegas in late July for a three-day camp/combine for professional players, performed well and drew interest from teams in Denmark, Sweden, the Czech Republic and England. That interest also was piqued because Crecco became a dual Italian/American citizen in July (his paternal grandparents were both born and raised in Italy), which meant he could fill an EU spot on a European roster and not take up one of the limited import spots.

After negotiating with several teams, Crecco chose Durham for the same reason he chose Dartmouth – academics. The Wildcats club is affiliated with the university and that connection was appealing to Crecco, who will earn the equivalent of a Master’s degree in financial management by the end of the year.

“Durham University is ranked third in England behind Oxford and Cambridge, so it’s got a really great reputation,” Crecco said. “So it was very similar to the decision I made when I chose Dartmouth. I have an opportunity to pursue a first-class education and also play basketball at a really high level.”

“I think Kirk has adjusted well to life here in England,” Davie said. “It can be a difficult situation, being a full-time student and playing professional basketball at the same time.”

Crecco the author

When Crecco was in Luxembourg, he decided to write a book about how he got there.

“I had seen enough players in America who were capable of playing in Europe and had the desire to continue their career, but they just didn’t know how to go about doing it,” Crecco said. “I felt like there were a lot of opportunities overseas that a lot of Americans just don’t know about.”

So he went to work in his spare time and soon enough had written, Living the Dream: How to Get Recruited to Play Professional Basketball. The 56-page guide is available electronically on amazon.com and also can be downloaded as a .pdf file at lulu.com.

Despite his busy schedule as an accelerated graduate student and professional athlete in England, Crecco is about “three quarters of the way through a second book.” This one has a similar theme but a wider target audience than his first title.

“It’s designed to help high school students get recruited to play college sports,” Crecco said. “Basically I wanted to write this because when I was at Gilford High School and my dad and I were trying to generate interest for me to get recruited, there were a lot of things we didn’t know and we had to go through a trial-and-error process. So I just hope this guide can help aspiring student/athletes and make that process a little easier for them.”

The next horizon

Crecco will continue to work on his second book and market his first as he tries to help the ninth-place Wildcats (7-10) climb into the top eight and make the BBL playoffs for the first time in the team’s three-year history. But he’s also feeling a professional pull that may lead him in a different direction when the season is over.

“For the first time in my life I’m open to the idea of moving on from basketball,” Crecco said. “When I graduated from Dartmouth, it was still a big dream to go play in Europe, but I’ve done that now and there are just a lot of other things I’m interested in, for instance finance, which I’m really enjoying studying about and I’m excited about the prospects of getting involved in that industry.”

Still, he said if the right basketball opportunity came along next year he might take it. And he will always be grateful for the opportunities basketball has already provided.

“It’s given me some of my proudest moments as well as some of my largest challenges, and I think those challenges have helped me develop a greater appreciation for the times when things go right,” Crecco said. “It has helped provide me with the opportunity to attend two great schools, and enabled me to travel and see parts of the world I probably wouldn’t have gotten to go to otherwise. It has also given me the substance and motivation to write a book. So regardless of whether or not I play again next season, I would say that basketball has been pretty generous to me.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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