Crook, McDonald ready to put point guard drama to bed

Sophomore guard Jamal Crook shoots free throws while WKU’s student section cheers him on in the first half of their home game Saturday against Troy. Crook played for 20 minutes and recorded eight points, nine assists and eight rebounds. WKU won 77-58.

Zach Greenwell

The point guard position has been a revolving door for WKU this season.

But Head Coach Ken McDonald said the Toppers (7-11, 2-4 Sun Belt Conference) might finally be ready to settle down with a permanent duo.

Junior Kahlil McDonald and sophomore Jamal Crook have split the point guard duties since the beginning of 2011, bringing some much-needed consistency to the position.

“Kahlil’s maturing as well on the job,” Ken McDonald said. “He’s a two-guard that’s playing the point. He’s making better decisions, and Jamal gives us great energy off the bench. He gives us a running game more, and he’s continuing to get better defensively. It’s two different guys.”

Crook was expected to split his playing time with another point guard at the beginning of the season. It was just supposed to be junior Ken Brown.

The two worked hand-in-hand for the first month of the season before Brown was dismissed from the team for a violation of WKU’s academic policy on Dec. 11.

Freshman Brandon Peters slid into the starting role after a move from shooting guard and immediately impressed, but the Toppers then hit another glitch.

Peters was ruled academically ineligible for the remainder of the season on Jan. 1 based on his first-semester grades. Suddenly, it was up to WKU to find another option.

The coaching staff opted to move Kahlil McDonald from shooting guard to the point, a switch that’s paid dividends recently.

McDonald and Crook have recorded a combined 37 assists in six Sun Belt games. Crook has been especially impressive, totaling 23 assists and just eight turnovers.

“Me and Coach have kind of been going back and forth, just talking about being able to run my team in different situations,” Crook said. “It’s just mainly confidence.”

Crook played the best game of his career Saturday, finishing with eight points, nine assists and eight rebounds in WKU’s 77-58 win over Troy. The assist and rebound numbers were both career highs.

“It was a great win,” senior forward Sergio Kerusch said. “It’s great to come back home and get one down. This makes two in a row, and hopefully we can go out and build on it, especially when we have people playing like Jamal.”

Kahlil McDonald has had his ups and downs in Sun Belt play and has recorded more turnovers than assists in four of those contests.

But Ken McDonald has stuck with the junior college transfer, opting to bring Crook off the bench for an energy boost.

And that’s just fine with Crook.

“I love Kahlil playing,” he said. “He gets it going, and then I can come in and bring energy up a notch. I think it’s good. Whatever situation that I’m in, I don’t have any problem coming off the bench if I have to.”

Ken McDonald said Saturday that he’s pleased with the dynamic between his two point guards.

It wasn’t the first rotation he had in mind this season. It wasn’t even the second.

But McDonald said the Toppers have been making the best of unexpected situations all year.

“Sometimes dealing with adversity as a group for the first time — some of that stuff could be in play,” he said. “But they’re really pulling for each other and working hard, and they have been for a while. It’s just really good to see some results that they can build on.”