, Muskogee, OK

December 13, 2012

Alive in the desert: Fort Gibson grad finds more action on Arizona’s court

By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer

— Fans of former Fort Gibson Lady Tiger Carissa Crutchfield might have noticed that she has not appeared in any of Oklahoma State’s games this season.

That’s because the 5-foot-6 junior transferred from OSU to the University of Arizona at the end of the 2011-12 academic year.

“Things are going great,” Crutchfield said. “It’s really great out here. It’s going really well.”

Crutchfield, the All-Phoenix MVP in 2009-10 after her senior season at Fort Gibson High, played in 61 games for the Cowgirls, starting four, during her two seasons in Stillwater and averaged 2.06 points per game. So far this season at UA, she has played and started eight contests for the Wildcats and is averaging 5.0 ppg, 2.5 rebounds and is second on the team with 24 assists.

“I’m trying to give them what they want,” she said. “They’re looking for someone to help them get to the field of 64 and I’m trying to do that. I’m trying to bring in some of the things I did at OSU plus the experience of winning the WNIT.”

Arizona coach Niya Butts, who is in her fifth season at the helm, has nothing but praise for the 2009-10 All-Phoenix Most Valuable Player.

“She’s a really good kid and I thought she would fit in well in our program,” Butts said. “She’s a veteran point guard coming from a really good program. She had some unfortunate circumstances that happened at OSU but she’s someone to help lead our group.”

Several factors figured into Crutchfield’s decision to head west, among which was the plane crash on Nov. 18, 2011 that took the lives of OSU head coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna.

“That was kinda tough,” Crutchfield said. “I was really close to coach Budke and coach Serna.

“It got kinda difficult with them being gone. I needed a new start and that’s what I have at Arizona.”

Not knowing what to expect when she donned her Wildcat uniform for Arizona’s season opener at Cal State-Bakersfield, Crutchfield saw her named penciled in as a starter and played 20 minutes, scoring five points and pulling down five rebounds in the Wildcats’ 71-50 win.

She followed that game up with eight points and five assists in 32 minutes in Arizona’s 83-82 win at Nevada-Las Vegas.

“(Arizona assistant coach Ben) Manning had recruited me in high school,” Crutchfield said about her decision to attend Arizona. “He always told me if I needed something, he was there for me to help me out.”

One off-court thing Crutchfield has had to adjust to is the weather in the desert.

“It does get chilly at night here,” she said. “But it doesn’t get that cold. They don’t have much of a winter.”