Scouting? Evaluation? When I was scouting a player for MY team, one of the top things on my look-for list was OR, Offensive Rebounding. Those guys are worth, as I used to say, a couple of scholarships! They clean up the messes. They make everyone look good. They make the offense look efficient. They kill the other team’s fast break. They make the coach look like a genius. When I coached college basketball, I recruited them flat out. When I coached international basketball, I signed every one I could.
Ted Crary was my first really exceptional offensive rebounder. He was on my first freshman team at Michigan State, 1963-64. He was signed before I was hired, by head coach Forddy Anderson. I simply inherited him, a 6’5″ forward from Springfield, Pennsylvania. He had what every outstanding offensive rebounder must have: a great work ethic, a ‘nose’ for the ball, a love of contact, a no-fear attitude, a perfect sense of timing. This all became clear during my first practice with my Freshman team.
It has to be understood that, at that time, Freshmen could not compete at the Varsity level in Football and Basketball. What’s more, we did not have a freshman schedule against other colleges, as they did in the Atlantic Coast Conference. So, we only had a few outlets for the competitive instincts of the players when we played before the Varsity games: intra-squad (between ourselves, which we did every day), against the Varsity reserves, against the football team (some great players), against the baseball team, against the Intra-Mural All-Stars.
On a few occasions, we also scrimmaged the Varsity but we really had only two scholarship players: Ted and Joe Johnson, a 6’5″ forward out of South HS in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Both moved up to the Varsity the next year, with Joe starting a few games early on and Ted getting more and more playing time as the year went on. I already knew what I had on my hands from what I saw in practice: his team would win every scrimmage because he’d keep getting offensive rebounds … until they scored.
But what really sealed the deal for me was when he’d scrimmage the Varsity. Now he was going up against some excellent athletes, like 6’4″ Pete Gent (Bangor MI), who signed with the … NFL Dallas Cowboys, 6’4″ Bill Curtis (Grand Rapids South HS), 6’3″ Stan Washington (Northwestern HS, Detroit). Those three guys were outstanding rebounders but Ted kept getting position on them and kept out-rebounding them. They’d get mad and get physical but a guy like Ted loved that. In fact, he thrived on it.
So, I already knew offensive rebounders were an asset to any team but, up to that point, early in my career, I had never coached a super offensive rebounder … until Ted. Once I saw, up close and first-hand, what a guy like that could do, I began to look for others like him. He was the prototype for what I was seeking. From that point forward, when scouting or evaluating a player, I’d ask myself: “How would this guy do against Ted Crary?” I saw very few that could have held their own with Ted, a relentless force.