Team manager turned team player is fueled by his past
Ted Crass was once a kid with a lot of problems and little ambition. But with graduation looming, he decided to make a change for the better. After graduating from Central High School in 2008, Crass enrolled at UALR and soon became team manager for the Trojans men’s basketball team. This meant he was one step closer to achieving his dream of coaching.
Three years later, after developing an extensive knowledge of the sport and relationship with players and coaches, head coach Steve Shields offered Crass a chance to dress out. Although he only played three minutes of one game last season, his foot was firmly placed in the door.
“I feel like [Shields] took a liking to me because I worked hard and he knew my past and how I wanted to change the future,” Crass said. “It’s a great opportunity to get to know somebody, and I was really able to get to know him and learn a whole lot.”
Crass said that basketball was a year-round sport for him as a child, just as it was for his father when he was growing up in Pine Bluff. As a child, he spent most of his free time at the Little Rock Boys and Girls Club on 12th Street, where he later started working as a teenager.
“It was kind of always my idea to go and play college basketball,” Crass said, “and then I got in a lot of trouble and started making bad choices when I was about 15, and I kind of fell away from it and chose a different path. Then when I got some help and got my life back on track, I decided I was going to help kids instead of playing.”
Crass said he quit playing after his freshman year in high school because he was getting into some trouble of his own. He soon realized that helping people with their problems helped him resolve his own. It was at this point Crass realized his motivating force was his passion for coaching. He said he looks to coaches like former University of California, Los Angeles head basketball coach John Wooden for inspiration. Just as Wooden did with his players, Crass likes to help players build character and stay out of trouble.
“I started coaching basketball when I was 16 at the Boys and Girls Club of Little Rock and decided that I wanted to be a college basketball coach,” Crass said.
While he would love to stay at UALR, Crass said he may attend graduate school in Texas, Nebraska or Florida, and plans to study Speech Communications or Sports Management. While continuing his education, Crass plans to work as a graduate assistant and coach basketball. He said that his dream is to eventually become an Olympic basketball coach.
“Basketball is growing so fast in South America that I would hope that I can get in on that,” Crass said, “and there are a lot of job opportunities from knowing Spanish.”
But Crass said that he thinks if he would have gone to a bigger school to play basketball, he wouldn’t have such a close relationship with the coaches, especially Shields, who he calls his mentor.
“Ted has been a very important part of our program for the past four years,” Shields said. “His situation is fairly unique — going from being a manager to a player — but it shows that he has worked extremely hard to get to this point.”
Crass spends the majority of his time honing his basketball skills and working out. Any free time that he has is spent volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club, playing video games like NBA2K and reading coaching books.
Crass said he hopes to be a leader and help his young teammates develop their skills more efficiently.
“I just hope we can win,” Crass said. “I really just hope to be a leader and step in when I need to.”
Crass attributes his basketball skills to his knowledge of the game, being able to stay calm, and keep his composure. He also says that his physical weaknesses are his athleticism and his height. Crass is about 5 feet 9 inches, but says that doesn’t make him any less motivated.
“I’m able to turn my weaknesses and my past into my biggest strengths,” Crass said. “The things that have literally almost killed me, I now use in my advantage — to be a better person, not just a basketball player.”