Wearing a white Nike head band that conjures images from the past, think Paul Pierce, 14-year-old Jason Crowe Jr. of Lynwood High was hardly resembling the freshman phenom his supporters were bragging about.
He had zero points as the first quarter was ending. Lynwood’s coach and Crowe’s father, Jason Sr., sat his son on the bench to rest and reflect. Something was wrong. He was sluggish, not aggressive or intense.
When the second quarter began, it was as if Crowe had just come out of the corner during a boxing match after receiving a pep talk from his trainer. He suddenly looked refreshed and rejuvenated. He went into attack mode on offense and defense. At a wiry 6 feet 3, with long arms, he doesn’t have a senior’s strength, but all the moves and instincts fans had been raving about were suddenly on display.
He’d go on to score 39 points in the final three quarters of a loss in the Beverly Hills tournament, leaving no doubt this is a teenager who is still learning the game but possessing a skill set few his age have attained.
Before the tournament was over last month, he added games of 43 and 46 points against opponents who knew they needed to stop him. He’s averaging 36.3 points a game this season, with a high of 51. He had 45 points Saturday night against Long Beach Poly.
It’s startling how effectively he’s scoring on drives when his strength is still in the development stage. You can only imagine what he’ll be like in a matter of months as maturity kicks in and weight training allows him to absorb contact and fly through the lane as if he were a trapeze artist. He reminds some of Marcus LoVett Jr., who put up large numbers at Providence Burbank. Others mention the great Raymond Lewis, a 1960s playground legend from South Los Angeles.
“His skill level is very high, but he’s learning how to play basketball,” said his father, a former standout player at Inglewood High and Cal State Northridge. “He’s a joy to watch.”
As the basketball season heads into January and league play gets under way, what’s clear is that Crowe is part of an impressive class of freshmen making an immediate impact at the varsity level.
There’s also Tajh Ariza of Playa del Rey St. Bernard, Alijah Arenas of Chatsworth, Che Brogan of Santa Ana Mater Dei, Kaiden Bailey of Irvine Crean Lutheran, Joe Sterling of Encino Crespi, Brayden Kyman of Santa Margarita, Maximo Adams of Harbor City Narbonne, Zachary White of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Dominique Bentho of Studio City Harvard-Westlake and Joseph Riggins of Ontario Colony. That’s exceptional talent from the class of 2026. Ariza and Arenas are the sons of former NBA players.
Equally impressive is that some are already prolific from the free-throw line, a fundamental skill sometimes forgotten. Bailey was 13 of 13 on free throws in a game earlier this season. Crowe made 10 of 11.
“That’s really helping my scoring getting to the free-throw line and attacking the rim,” Crowe said.
Crowe has spent years playing against his father in the backyard. He also has been receiving advice from his father’s good friend, Paul Pierce, the Hall of Famer who showed up to one of his games at Beverly Hills.
“I always love him coming to my games giving me tips,” Crowe said.
The fact Crowe doesn’t turn 15 until July makes him one of the youngest freshmen in high school basketball in an era where parents are holding their children back so they’ll be 16-year-old freshmen and more physically ready for varsity basketball. Except there was no holding back Crowe, who looks at times like LaMelo Ball when he was playing varsity as a 14-year-old freshman at Chino Hills with a fearlessness against older, stronger players.
“It’s fun. I like the challenge,” Crowe said.
Crowe appears to have a great support system, with his mother and father making sure grades are important along with being humble and a team player.
“I like this new era of parenting, where I see the grades every day,” Jason Sr. said. “We’re trying to get straight A’s this semester.”
Good grades and good basketball can lead to an unlimited future for Jason Jr., who might be 14 but is creating excitement among those who recognize his talent, passion and commitment.