Crawford brothers set to duel for family bragging rights

Years ago, when Joe and Jordan Crawford were still students with dreams of playing college and pro basketball, the two brothers were the only two kids in their neighborhood that never quit playing ball.

“We were the kids that wanted to play basketball every day,” Joe Crawford said. “We played every day. At the parks, in backyards, go to somebody else’s house and take over the backyard.”

The most popular site was the Crawfords’ driveway, where Joe Crawford said he often put his younger brother in his place.

“It was funny,” Joe Crawford said. “He’d be out there picking on our little brother, wouldn’t let him do anything on him. Then I’d come out there and do the same thing to (Jordan).”

Now, both brothers are college basketball players, and for the first time since their high school days in the driveway, they will meet tomorrow when Joe Crawford’s UK team takes on Jordan Crawford’s Indiana Hoosiers.

Joe Crawford didn’t hesitate to acknowledge that he wouldn’t be able to pick on his younger brother the way he used to.

“It’s a little different now,” Joe Crawford said. “He’s as big as me, and he’s more talented.”

“More talented than he used to be,” Crawford added, just so everyone knew he still held the upper hand.

Jordan Crawford, a freshman guard, is third on the Hoosiers in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game. He hasn’t played since Nov. 24 while serving a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules, but Jordan Crawford will play Saturday, and he’s anxious to prove he can hang with his older brother.

When asked if he was better than Joe, Jordan Crawford’s answer was short and sweet.

“By far,” he said with a laugh.

But Joe Crawford said his brother still has to prove that.

“He’s going to have to show it then,” Joe Crawford said. “(We talk trash) everyday. I’m going to call him right after this meeting. I didn’t like that comment a whole lot.”

But Joe Crawford does have one advantage Saturday — his parents are on his side.

“They’ll be wearing blue,” Joe Crawford said. “Because I told them to.”

Both brothers know their meeting is an undercard to a rivalry that existed before either of them ever dribbled a basketball. UK and Indiana have squared off 50 times since 1924, with the Cats holding a slim 28-22 edge. UK has won six of the last seven and 11 of the last 13 meetings between the two, but for the first time since 1990, the game will be played in Bloomington, Ind., a place the Cats have traditionally struggled. UK is 4-9 all-time in Bloomington and just 2-7 in Assembly Hall.

The two teams traditionally play in either Louisville or Indianapolis, but a scheduling conflict in 2006 moved the game to Rupp Arena and the 2007 game to Assembly Hall.

“I’m not trying to make it individual,” Jordan Crawford said of the contest. “It’s bigger than that. It’s IU versus UK.”

The Hoosiers are led by standout freshman guard Eric Gordon, who is averaging 24.3 points per game. Senior forward D.J. White leads IU with 8.6 rebounds per game and is the team’s second leading scorer at 14.8 points per game.

It’s clear to Joe Crawford that this isn’t just another game, whether it’s because of a rivalry between two teams or a rivalry between two brothers. White dubbed it the “Crawford Bowl,” and though both brothers acknowledged the importance of the actual game, Joe Crawford said he knows how rare it is to play against a sibling.

“I think about it everyday,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m going to go out there and enjoy it.”