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Jim Crews spoke for 24 minutes Friday to Metcalf School basketball players and their parents. A Metcalf student 50 years earlier, Crews later starred at University High School, won a national title as a player at Indiana University and spent 37 years as a college basketball coach.

The core of his message was about being a good teammate ... what that means in the moment and in the long term.

It was great stuff. Every player and parent should hear it.

Yet, for all of the insightful words Crews delivered, nothing spoke louder than his interactions before and after he stood at a podium in Metcalf's gym.

He laughed and joked with Selby Hubbard, the current Metcalf eighth-grade basketball coach and Crews' teammate at Metcalf and U High.

He did the same with Stew Salowitz and Dave Mizer, who, like Hubbard, shared the court and classes with Crews as Metcalf students/players.

A bond formed in the days of crew cuts and Chuck Taylor Converse shoes was strong as ever. You could see it, feel it.

Good teammates become great friends and, unlike the games they play together, the clock never runs out on that.

"I came here for one reason," Crews told the players/parents. "It wasn't because it's called Metcalf and it wasn't because I went to school here and it wasn't because this is a nice gym. I came because of Selby." 

"When I was a little bit younger than you guys ...," he added, looking toward the players. "... my mom told me, 'Just get lost in the middle of a lot of good people. Wherever that pack of people goes — and I don't know where it's going to go — you'll be fine.'"

Hubbard, Salowitz and Mizer remain part of that pack. They don't get together often with Crews, who lives a state away, but when they do, it's like they never left the locker room adjacent to Metcalf's gym.

When Hubbard's late son, Erik, was ill, Crews, head coach at Evansville at the time, did a number of things for the family. Included was sending a pair of Evansville shorts with a large "E" on them. It brought a smile to the Hubbards and in particular to Erik, who died at age 12 in 1992.

"We were teammates over 40 years ago," Selby Hubbard said. "But I know if there's anything I need, Jim would be there for me."

Crews lives in the Indianapolis area now. Following a career in which he was an assistant coach at Indiana and head coach at Evansville, Army and Saint Louis University, he currently coaches a team of first-graders at a basketball academy run by his former Indiana teammate, Tom Abernethy.

He joked that recently when one of the players called him "an adult," another chimed in and said, "You're not an adult. You're older than that."

In truth he is 64 and content with where his "pack of people" has led him.

"You never say never, but I don't miss it (coaching)," Crews said. "I was blessed. It was great. But I really enjoy the tempo of life outside of coaching. It's a completely different life."

Crews will tell you he's picked up valuable lessons during his basketball life. He shared some of them Friday, telling the junior high players the importance of being truthful, listening to their coaches, working hard and helping others.

He talked of being in "the one-time club." That is, needing to be told to do something just one time. He emphasized doing "the next right thing" and how uplifting that can be.

All of it, he said, goes into being a good teammate.

"Do you want to play with teammates who don't listen? Do you want to play with teammates who don't work hard? Do you want to play with teammates who won't talk on the court? Do you want to play with teammates who are an emotional wreck?" Crews asked the players. "Here's the key. Don't be that guy.

"Be a good teammate. Be a good teammate in science class. Be a good teammate at home. You should be a good teammate in the neighborhood. When you're a good teammate, it's not about me. It's about us."

For Crews, "us" includes Hubbard, a fellow starter on U High's 1971 super-sectional team. It includes Mizer and Salowitz, both of whom attended kindergarten with him. It includes so many people from so many teams.

And again, it doesn't end when the buzzer sounds.

That's the best part.

Contact Randy Kindred at (309) 820-3402. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_kindred

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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