ATHENS – Tyree Crump was dancing, for no one in particular. He snapped his fingers, shimmied his shoulders, and swayed his legs. It was media day for the Georgia men’s basketball team, and Crump, a freshman guard, was dancing because he feels no pressure. Not with what he’s already endured in his life.
For the past five years, his mother Shantell has battled Lupus, a potentially fatal disease. Her name is tattoed on her only son’s right arm.
His father was shot and killed before Crump was born. His name was Tyree Wilburn. His name lives on in his son.
All of this, Tyree Crump acknowledges, has a direct line to how Georgia fans will see him play over the next few years.
“I just go hard as I can every time I step on the court – and do it for her,” Crump said.
Crump, a 6-foot-1 combo guard, can light it up from outside. That’s the reputation he comes to Georgia having, after scoring 2,209 career points at Bainbridge High School. He kept it up during Georgia’s four-game swing through Spain this summer.
“Tyree is a microwave,” junior forward Juwan Parker said. “He sees one go in and you never know, he might hit the next eight, nine, 10, you’re just cheering the whole way.”
A four-star recruit, Crump is expected to have an immediate role for the Bulldogs. They need to replace the prolific outside shooting of Kenny Gaines, who graduated. But he’ll have to do more in order for Mark Fox to play him: As hot as Crump was shooting it in Spain, his defense was so weak that longtime Georgia women’s basketball coach Andy Landers, who was on the trip, pulled him aside to let him know he better not shirk the defensive end.
Crump said he heard the message.
“In high school you didn’t really have to play defense, but now at the college level you should work on your weakness. And defense is one of my weaknesses,” Crump said. “So I’m working.”
Crump doesn’t give long answers. But they are direct. When asked if he feels he needs to provide something to this team right away, his one-word answer: “Yes.”
He elaborated, when pressed. But only a bit.
“Doing the dirty stuff,” he said. “Rebounding. Playing defense. Scoring a little bit. Just everything.”
Crump knows the circumstances of his father’s death, but he didn’t want to talk about it.
As for his mother, Lupus has varying degrees of severity. Crump, understandably, did not go into details there, other than to make clear the past few years have been tough.
“It was difficult,” he said. “It was hard dealing with it. We got through it.”
Shantell’s name is written in very large script on her son’s arm. It’s a tribute, but not the only one he plans.
“My mom wants me to do the right thing. Anything I can do to make her be stronger, I’ll do it,” Crump said. “Going to school and playing basketball, staying on top of everything, that’s making her stronger. So it’s making me stronger as a person.”