When the UCF’s men’s basketball team has it rolling and opponents are forced to call timeouts, the first person to come flying off the Knights’ bench and bubble with emotion is one who isn’t even dressed to play.
But being involved in the games and being a motivator for his teammates is Josh Crittle’s way of tricking his mind into believing that he’s very much a part of the UCF basketball team even though he’s ineligible to play this season.
“I have to stay involved or it would drive me crazy sitting out. I’m trying to do as much as I can to stay involved and help my team out,” said Crittle, who must sit out this season after transferring to UCF from Oregon. “It’s real tough sitting down and watching our team. I’m already excited about being a part of the team next year. I’m just looking forward to practice every day as my gameday. I look forward to it and I take practice serious.”
UCF’s scout team is loaded with talent and potential with Virginia transfer Tristan Spurlock, Illinois transfer Jeff Jordan and Crittle. That group has given the Knights practice depth and has done a good job of giving the first-string squad a realistic look of what it will encounter in games. And occasionally, the group even gets the best of the regular rotation in drills and scrimmages.
“We feel like we’re the best scout team in America,” Crittle said. “We just think that no other one has as much talent as we do.”
Crittle, a 6-foot-8, 270-pound power forward/center, has plenty of talent and should give the Knights more depth, size and toughness next season. The Bellwoood, Ill., native averaged 2.9 points and 2.1 rebounds while appearing in 51 games in his two seasons at Oregon.
But his future now is at UCF, and Crittle sees big things ahead for the Knights with the Division I transfers joining the star-studded recruiting class on the way. He thinks this sitting out season will be beneficial to him because it allows him to learn the system and the current players while also working on his game individually.
“We have so much potential here with a great recruiting class coming in and our scout teams guys, too. I’m looking forward to all of those guys coming in and playing with them. We have the potential to do a lot of good things,” said Crittle, who was once ranked as the 29th-best high school center in the country by ESPN.com.
“I feel like we’ll merge really well with the other guys. We’ve had this year to improve individually and get to know each other. Our chemistry should be great. Hopefully we’ll hit the ground running.”
Crittle is doing plenty of running these days in hopes of slimming down his massive frame to become more mobile and improve his stamina. Crittle has dropped 15 pounds since the fall semester by getting in extra work and doing shooting drills with Spurlock at all hours of the night. The two can often be found near midnight playing one-on-one and helping each other get up hundreds of jump shots.
“I’m doing some extra cardio stuff every day and I’ve got my own diet that I’m trying to stick to. I want to cut down another 20 pounds or so to be ready for next year,” Crittle said. “I’m trying to get in great shape. After my (shoulder) surgery (last summer) I gained some weight, but since I’ve been back I’ve lost 15 pounds. I want to get to 250 or 245 by next season. Just from the 15 that I have lost I feel my energy is higher and I can move better.”
For now, Crittle does what he can to help his teammates by bringing energy and emotion off the bench during games. In time, he’ll bring that emotion to the playing court where he is confident that he’ll make the Knights a better team.
“I try to do whatever it takes to win,” he promised. “I do it all – from facing up, back to the basket and taking people off the dribble. I just want to do whatever the team needs me to do that night.”
John Denton’s Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at email@example.com.