ANAHEIM, CALIF. – How does a Minneapolis native who played for DeLaSalle’s dominant basketball program make it back to Minneapolis for the Final Four?
Turns out the GPS route Geno Crandall followed recalculated a couple of times. He played for three seasons at North Dakota, where he earned his degree, became one of the country’s most sought-after graduate transfers, elicited interest from the Gophers, Xavier and Gonzaga, and deciding to head West.
Crandall is Gonzaga’s senior point guard. He wasn’t as productive as usual in the Bulldogs’ 72-58 Sweet 16 victory over Florida State on Thursday at the Honda Center, but he moved one step closer to playing in the Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Which is why he transferred to Gonzaga, college basketball’s oddest powerhouse — the private school in Spokane, Wash., that routinely wins 30 games and earned a No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament.
Asked which DeLaSalle teammates he remains closest with, Crandall said, “Everybody, really. That’s what drew me here, the community and togetherness is very similar to what I was comfortable with in high school. And we’re all still really tight. When I check my phone, I’ll probably have all those guys texting me and reminding me that I’m 40 minutes away from coming home.”
Crandall was a go-to scorer with North Dakota. Playing for a powerhouse meant seeing his scoring drop from 16.6 to 5.3 points per game and his minutes from 33.4 to 19.2.
Lean and quick, capable of spearheading the Bulldogs’ press, Crandall did not score in eight minutes of playing time Thursday, as starting point guard Josh Perkins played 36 minutes, scoring 14 points and jawing with Florida State’s physical players.
“Geno has helped us big time,” Perkins said. “He doesn’t get a lot of credit he deserves. He’s an experienced leader, a leader on and off the court. He can give me a break on the ball and he can run the team.
“Geno’s been huge for us. I really think people should talk about him more. And it helps that the Final Four is in his city, which is extra motivation for us to get him home.”
Crandall didn’t play at DeLaSalle with Gophers freshman Gabe Kalscheur, but they’ve become friends by playing pickup hoops every summer.
“I watched him earlier in the tournament,” Crandall said. “He played fantastic. I was really proud of him. A lot of us DeLaSalle guys get together and work out together during the summer.
“I was super-proud of him. I look at him as a younger brother. It was great to see him do what he did for himself, and for the hometown team.”
Crandall’s post-UND college choices were between staying home and playing for the Gophers, playing for Xavier assistant coach Ben Johnson, a Gophers alum who knows Minnesota basketball as well as anyone, or accepting a lesser role with a national power.
“This is exactly where I wanted to be,” he said after the victory in the Gonzaga locker room. “And I think everybody in the room would probably say the same. This is why you sign with this school and put this jersey on, is to play in games like this, late in March and early April.
“I’m a really competitive guy and I want to win and win at the highest level. Obviously, when I was going through this, I thought this was a great fit community- and personality-wise, a chance to improve myself and my game, and a chance to play late in the season.”
He’ll play Saturday at the Honda Center for a No. 1 seed. If he plays any later in the season than that, he’ll be practicing at a different Minneapolis venue next week: that tradition-rich basketball venue named U.S. Bank Stadium.