Top 10 of the D1 Era - No. 3: Javon McCrea
Forward became basketball program's all-time leading scorer this year
Junior forward Will Regan recalls multiple times this past season he watched Javon McCrea and sophomore forward Justin Moss battle in practice.
Moss, being a strong, physical player, was one of the few on the court that could match McCrea's strength. On both ends of the floor, Moss and McCrea challenged each other - trying not to let the other get the better.
"In practice, it was funny just to watch them go at it because they're both just boxers out there," Regan said. "I think that actually helped Javon this year playing through contact. Obviously, he was the focal point of teams' defenses and double and triple teams. He was able to handle those well going up against the strength of Justin. [It] prepared him day in and day out. It was actually pretty entertaining."
The one-on-one battles between Moss and McCrea worked in the favor of the Bulls, as they finished the season with a 19-10 overall record and a 13-5 conference mark en route to the program's first-ever outright Mid-American Conference East championship.
McCrea finished the season with numerous accolades - becoming the program's all-time leading scorer with 2,004 points, being a first-team All-MAC selection for the third straight season and earning his first MAC Player of the Year recognition.
"It was awesome to be a part of [his career] and see what he's been able to accomplish," Regan said. "In my three years here and seeing him grow as a player, he's really developed in all aspects."
Regan said McCrea was able to better his game over his career by developing a stronger jumper and "keeping teams on their heels." McCrea was known for his bruising post play - simply overpowering MAC opponents - as well as his unselfish passing and strong ball handling.
Bulls head coach Bobby Hurley declined to speak to The Spectrum, according to UB Athletics,and McCrea did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.
In 2010-11, his freshman season, McCrea averaged 21 minutes and 11.8 points per game and led the MAC in offensive rebounds (101) coming off the bench for Buffalo. In his final game of the season, a loss in the MAC quarterfinals to Kent State, McCrea scored 28 of UB's 62 points. He won MAC Freshman of the Year.
But it wasn't until his sophomore season that McCrea started to elevate his game to become a consistently elite player for the Bulls.
He averaged 14.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game while playing in all 31 games for Buffalo. He finished sixth in the MAC in scoring, fifth in rebounding and fourth in blocks per game (1.3). He earned his first first-team All-MAC selection playing alongside conference player of the year Mitchell Watt in the post.
"Javon is one of the most gifted athletes I've ever played with," said former UB guard Tony Watson, who played with McCrea from 2010-13. "The thing I think is so special about him is how natural and effortlessly he can dominate a game."
In McCrea's junior season, he started to climb the record books and approach some of the best players in program history.
The 6-foot-7, 250-pound Newark, N.Y., native finished the season with 20.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, and he finished third in the MAC in field goal percentage (.557) and second in conference scoring (18.0).
His junior year helped propel McCrea toward a memorable senior season that earned him a top spot in the UB record books.
"He's always one that works hard [and] he's always one that led by example because of his play, and he sort of commanded respect to his play," Regan said.
In his senior season, McCrea averaged 18.5 points per game and amassed 64 assists, 286 total rebounds and a .561 field goal percentage.
Though most mock drafts do not have McCrea being selected in this year's NBA Draft, Bleacher Report recently named McCrea one of its biggest potential steals in the class. Regardless of whether he is drafted, an NBA team will likely pick McCrea up to play in the Summer League as a tryout period.
Regan said McCrea always played with confidence - a statement verified by McCrea's steady demeanor on the court and dominant stats - and added that confidence will remain with Buffalo basketball.