UMES hires Jason Crafton as Men’s Basketball Coach

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PRINCESS ANNE, Md. — Jason Crafton, a young but experienced coach with stints at several levels including most recently the NBA G-League, has been hired to lead the University of Maryland Eastern Shore men’s basketball team.

The 16-year-veteran of coaching spent this past season in the NBA ranks as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers’ G-League affiliate Delaware Blue Coats. Prior to that, he was the head coach at his alma mater, Nyack College from 2012-18. He spent the beginning of his career as an assistant at the United States Naval Academy and Villanova University.

“Eleven years ago, I fell in love with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore,” Crafton said. “Becoming the head coach is a dream come true. The school has top-notch academics, a beautiful campus and a surrounding community that is hungry for a winning basketball program. Our staff will work collectively with our administration, students, alumni and the surrounding community in creating a new culture everyone feels a part of.”

In the spring of 2012, Crafton inherited a major rebuilding project, taking over a Warrior program which produced a 1-26 record the year prior to his arrival and was ranked 276 out of 277 NCAA Division II programs. In his second season, he propelled the Warriors one of the best turnarounds in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC).

“We are excited to have Coach Crafton as part of our Hawk family,” Eastern Shore Athletic Director Keith Davidson said. “His experience at all levels, from Division II to high major Division I and to the NBA will prove invaluable as we look to rebuild our Hawk basketball program.”

By the 2015-16 season the Warriors 11-15 record marked as the programs best since 2009. The Warriors also achieved 22 conference wins between 2013-2016, it’s best 3-year span in several years.  In the three seasons prior to Coach Crafton’s arrival, the Warriors had only won a total of 9 conference games.

Throughout his tenure, the Warriors made a name for themselves on the defensive end. In 2016, Nyack ranked 11th in the nation in turnovers forced per game. In that same year, the Warriors were rated the 31st Most Efficient Man-to-Man Defensive Team in the country by Synergy Sports Technology. The 2015 squad led the league in steals per game while the 2018 team finished with a zone defense that was rated in the top 10 percent nationally by Synergy.

Prior to Nyack, Crafton was Associate head coach at the U.S. Naval Academy for two seasons under then head coach Billy Lange. Before that, he was an assistant coach for the Midshipmen from 2005 to 2010 also under Lange who is now the St. Joseph’s University head coach.

“Jason has an incredible work ethic and his energy level and passion for the players is special,” Lange said. “His dynamic experiences as a Division I assistant along with his time as a head coach at an early age has helped him become one of the top young coaches in the game.”

He began his college coaching career as video coordinator for two seasons at Villanova under head coach Jay Wright (2003-05). While working at Villanova, he helped mentor two future NBA guards: All-Star Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors) and Randy Foye (Brooklyn Nets).

“The Villanova family is happy for Jason and for The University of Maryland Eastern Shore,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “It’s a great fit. Jason’s vision, passion and teaching skills will create immediate energy and competitiveness as he builds a successful program.”

While at Navy, Crafton was instrumental in developing Greg Sprink (2008 Patriot League Player of the Year) and J.J. Avila (2011 Patriot League Rookie of the Year and recent NBDL forward for the Windy City Bulls). At Nyack, he spearheaded the development of Nick Moore and Chris Hampton. Both players earned CACC All-Conference accolades and earned professional contracts overseas after graduating in 2016.

“I am confident in Coach Crafton’s ability, knowledge, passion and desire to not only get our basketball program on track, but to also integrate himself as part of the Hawk Athletics team,” Davidson said. “He is a man of high character and integrity who builds relationships and operates with a foundation of family values.”

This past season, Crafton worked with the Blue Coats to help instill similar philosophies as the parent club, the 76ers, while also maintaining a developmental mindset. The energetic coach played an integral role and took every opportunity to contribute in all phases of the program as well as use the experience to broaden his coaching knowledge, at different times throughout the season serving as Offensive and Defensive Coordinator as well as Director of Player Development. He assisted with the on-court development of multiple players who became contributors to the 76ers including 2018 first-round pick Zhaire Smith.

“Jason is a talented coach who made significant contributions to the Delaware Blue Coats organization, including the development of some of our team’s dynamic and promising young players,” 76ers general manager Elton Brand said. “We are proud of the strides the 76ers and Blue Coats organizations have made in cultivating the next generation of elite coaches and wish Jason much success at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.”

Crafton also maintained his connection to the college game after leaving Nyack. Last summer, Crafton was selected to serve as the head coach of the Athletes in Action Team comprised of Division I and II players that traveled to New Zealand. The squad finished 7-1 against National Club and professional teams, but also conducted clinics and performed mission work in local communities.

The former Warrior was a member of the Nyack College basketball team from 1999-2003 and served as team captain during his junior and senior seasons. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Communications in 2003.

He also had a stint as the Video Coordinator for USA Basketball’s Under 21 Trials in 2004 under head coach Kelvin Sampson, who is now the head coach of the University of Houston.

Crafton has signed a five-year contract in order to give him ample time to put his fingerprint on the program.

“I am delighted to welcome Coach Crafton to the UMES family,” President Dr. Heidi M. Anderson said. “With his diverse range of professional experiences, he brings a wealth of accomplishments to our men’s basketball program. It is particularly important to me that Crafton’s coaching style focuses on player development on and off the court, enabling him to serve as a mentor and role model for this team and the whole of the Hawk Athletics program.”

A news conference to help introduce Crafton to the local community will be held in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the new head coach will spend his time recruiting and hiring a staff.

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