HILLIARD, Fla. – The spotlight is shining bright on Nassau County basketball.
Right down the road from West Nassau High and star guard Deebo Coleman, is perhaps a better kept secret among area basketball fans.
Hilliard’s Jacob Crews, the area’s newest member of the career 2,000-point club, has been quietly scorching the nets for years.
It’s time to pay attention now.
Crews plays at one of the smallest schools in the area, Class 1A Hilliard, in a town, and county, not necessarily dripping with high school basketball pedigree.
But it’s become difficult to ignore tiny little Nassau County, with the 1-2 punch of Crews, a 6-foot-7 wing player, and Coleman coming one after the other. Crews, a senior, has signed with UNF. Coleman is one of the top recruits in the Class of 2021.
“In a way, ‘yes,’” said Crews, when asked if his career and the success of the team has somewhat sneaked up on people.
“We were very young at times, too. The talent we had. We had so many players that were multi-sport and basketball was never the dominant sport here. A lot of people were into football. That played a huge part in why we weren’t successful at a very young age. … We didn’t want to be taken lightly. I didn’t want to be taken lightly.”
Crews, who began playing for Hilliard in eighth grade, has seen the Red Flashes grow considerably during his time on the court. His eighth grade year, Hilliard won three games and won them by a combined 16 points.
This season, the Red Flashes are 19-3 and rated as the No. 6 team in Class 1A by MaxPreps.
Hilliard has steadily improved, moving from three wins to 11, to 15 and 20 prior to this year.
Crews’ play has been a major reason why.
He averaged 26.4 ppg last year and is only a bit under that this year (22.6), thanks to the addition of point guard Shemar Melton. When Crews went for a career-best 53 points in an 82-36 win over Union County on Jan. 10, it was the highest output in a game since Trinity Christian’s Isaiah Ford scored 59 in a Jan. 31, 2014 game against Eagle’s View.
Crews pulled that off in less than three quarters of play.
When Crews hears numbers like that, “53 points,” or “career 2,000-point scorer,” it’s jarring. He said that there was never a number or a milestone to shoot for. He just wanted to win, and help shift the mindset from a football-first program to one that included a bit more basketball.
“I never really had a goal, I was so focused on wanting to win I did whatever I could and naturally scoring was one of the things we needed,” he said. “I knew I could help out with that.”
Added Hilliard coach Myron Saunders: “I had to make him [a scorer]. He was more of a shooter, there’s a difference between shooting and scoring, in my opinion. A scorer can do more things than just shoot the ball. Get to the basket. Get to the free throw line. You score points in different ways. That’s where we had to elevate his game to.”