McPHERSON — This could be Jordan Crawford's masterpiece.
And if last year was any indication of what the 6-foot-5 senior guard/forward and his teammates are capable of, McPherson College fans might be in for a real treat.
"We need to stay level-headed, because the approach is going to be different because we're the hunted now," Crawford said. "But I would definitely say the vibe around here is pretty great right now."
And with good reason. The Bulldogs return the nucleus of their team after going to the NAIA Division II Elite Eight last season, are ranked No. 11 in the NAIA Division II preseason poll and were tabbed the KCAC preseason favorite in both coaches' and media polls earlier this month.
Crawford averaged 10.8 points and 7.3 rebounds last season on his way to honorable mention All-American and All-KCAC defensive team honors. Sophomore guard Samson Shivers — last year's KCAC freshman of the year, also returns after leading the team with 13.1 points per game and 84 three-pointers.
The Bulldogs opened the season with a 78-64 home win over Oklahoma Wesleyan on Saturday night.
"Obviously, we have a lot of players back so that attention is going to be there," McPherson coach Tim Swartzendruber said. "But when we returned from the national tournament last season, I could tell this group didn't seem to be satisfied with how we did. And it all starts with our leaders."
One of those leaders will be Crawford's identical twin brother, senior forward Chris, who didn't become eligible until February of last season but got to be part of the Bulldogs' late-season run.
"We played with each other all our lives, so to get to end our careers together is pretty special," Jordan said. "Our entire family is pretty close-knit."
And by close-knit, he essentially means right down the block.
The McPherson natives graduated from high school in 2007. Jordan and Chris both played their first year at Central Christian together, also in McPherson. While Chris left after the first year, Jordan played another season there before they both transferred to Barton Community College and then to McPherson.
Their parents, Jay and Caroline, still live in town, as does older sister Breanna and their nephew, Dayveon.
"My family loves it," Jordan said. "Being able to be around each other means the world to them, and it does to me, too."
Swartzendruber made a point to also point out the impact Jordan has had in the community outside of basketball.
"He's a leader on this campus, a really positive influence," Swarzendruber said. "He's involved in a mentoring program, he's a great student ... he's embraced McPherson College and it's definitely been returned. He's a high-character kid."
Jordan's on track to graduate with a degree in physical education next fall.
"The good thing about a small campus is people back each other up," Jordan said. "The run we had last year has a lot of people excited... professors, the student body, the other athletes, everybody's behind us."