One of Bradley’s all-time leaders on the court remains a leader within his hometown community.
A 2020 inductee into the Bradley Athletics Hall of Fame, men’s basketball alumnus Jeremy Crouch splashed 262 3-pointers from 2004 to 2008, a mark that still stands as a program record.
Now the head boys’ golf coach and assistant boys’ basketball coach at Pekin Community High School, Crouch was a part of the 2006 Braves squad that beat Kansas and Pittsburgh en route to the Sweet Sixteen.
A 2004 graduate of PCHS, Crouch’s early hoops career was bolstered by deep familial ties to the sport. Both of Crouch’s grandfathers played on the same team at Western Illinois, and one went on to coach at the high school level and for the University of Illinois. Additionally, his father played Division II basketball, and his uncle coached Jeremy at Pekin.
“I was really fortunate,” Crouch said of his upbringing. “I had some really influential basketball players in my life.”
Following his career with the Dragons, Crouch joined a storied list of Central Illinois products to play at Carver Arena for Bradley. Being close to home was an important factor for the 6-foot-5-inch guard, as it made things easy for his family to see his games.
“The early draw was just being familiar with the program, going to some games growing up,” Crouch said. “The other big thing was coach [Jim] Les. I really believed him, really appreciated the way that he wanted to play and the type of program that he wanted to build.”
Crouch also cited the rich history of Bradley as a selling point, a history that he was able to add to just two years into his tenure. A quartet of local talent – Crouch, Metamora’s Danny Adams and Peoria’s Daniel Ruffin and Marcellus Sommerville – helped make their mark on the program during the 2006 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
“It was incredible,” Crouch said of the 2005-06 season. “We just had such a really good group … off the floor especially, some of the best friends that I still have and we still talk often. I think that goes back to the type of culture and program that [Jim] Les wanted to build.
“Obviously, getting to play in the NCAA Tournament is everybody’s goal and everybody’s dream, and to have the success that we did once we were in the tournament was just incredible. The lasting memory for me obviously is going into the crowd a little bit after we beat Kansas, and there were 1,500 people that showed up to the airport after we beat Pittsburgh. Those two images are going to be something that I’ll remember forever.”
Today, Crouch is behind the success of the Pekin Dragons boys’ golf program. Since he ascended to the head coaching role in 2018, the Dragons have won 18 matches and are off to a hot start in the 2020 campaign.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to hamper the Illinois preps sports scene – including the cancellation of state tournaments – Crouch remains optimistic about the team’s chances.
“It’s really unfortunate because we had a really good golf team. We’ve got, I would argue, the best golfer around, Mason Minkel. He just won our city tournament a couple weeks ago … it’s just the biggest bummer that he’s not gonna get the chance in his senior year to compete at the highest level in the state,” Crouch said.
When it comes time to shift from golf to basketball – whenever that may be this season – Crouch will be ready to slide from head coaching to assistant coaching to help a Dragons boys’ basketball team that has notched a 34-21 record over the past two seasons.
“Thankfully, we have a really good head coach and we have some really good assistants that help with the program … once we get into season, it’s just like every other year where you kind of prepare as best you can and help as much as you can.”