David Crisp sees Isaiah Thomas for being more than a star basketball player. He views him as a role model for any kid from Washington.
“It was huge,” Crisp said of watching Thomas as a child when Thomas was starring at the University of Washington. “It let’s everybody know. All the kids know you can make it out from where you come from. Hard work, patience and that’s what he really did. He’s been a great role model for all the kids that’s come out from Tacoma.
“Hard work pays off and you can get to where you want to go.”
Crisp and Thomas have a lot in common. They’re both undersized guards from Tacoma who each played the same position for UW. As expected, their paths have crossed several times over the years. They’ll meet again Saturday when Thomas has his number retired during UW’s game against Colorado at the Alaska Airlines Arena.
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The 29-year-old and his No. 2 jersey dazzled audiences for three seasons at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. He guided the Huskies to three campaigns of more than 24 wins and reached the NCAA Tournament in each of those seasons. At the end of his time at UW, he left the school as the program’s eighth all-time leading scorer with 1,721 points for an average of 16.4 points per game.
He’s only the third Husky to have his number retired. The former Curtis High star joins center and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame member Bob Houbregs along with former All-American guard Brandon Roy.
“With I.T. coming back for his jersey retirement, you always gotta pay homage to those who paved the way for you,” Crisp said. “Me being a local kid, coming from the same place I.T. came from, he really paved the way for me and other local guys to really stay home and represent your city. Paying homage to him, it’s going to be a fun night.”
Crisp also knows about what Thomas has done away from the hardwood.
Thomas still lives in the area during the offseason. He’s active with his area charity and hosts an all-star game with other NBA players during Memorial Day weekend.
Last February, he was honored by the Al Davies Boys and Girls Club by having their basketball court christened Isaiah Thomas Court.
The Davies’ branch received a $50,000 grant from Lowe’s for a facility expansion. Thomas then donated $80,000 and got the NBA Players Association Foundation to chip in an extra $20,000 to the project.
He’s also returned to UW before the season to address this year’s team.
In addition to giving back to his community, Thomas has also created bonds with young players like Crisp.
“I was young. Around like fifth-grade, sixth-grade,” Crisp said of the first time he met Thomas. “He actually had known one of my teammates at the time, so, then he came to watch a couple of our games. I met him through him and then, once I got older, he’s from Tacoma. I’m from Tacoma.
“Guys look out for the next guy that’s coming up.”
Crisp said he and Thomas would stay in touch. Whenever they saw each other, they always made a point to talk and see how they were doing.
They’ll likely speak before and after the game about how the Huskies are in the run for a NCAA Tournament berth.
If anyone would know what it means, it’s Thomas.
He led Washington to three NCAA Tournament appearances, including the Sweet 16 during the 2009-10 campaign.
Crisp is trying to return UW to The Tournament for the first time in seven seasons. The Huskies entered the week with a 17-8 record and in many eyes, are a consensus bubble team.
Players like Crisp and Thomas are just two examples of how the Huskies have always made a point to recruit and retain the area’s best talent.
But given what they have in common, Crisp said watching Thomas was special.
“Just he’s fearless and that’s how I am,” said Crisp, who is 6-feet. “You see a 7-footer down there, it’s like, ‘Oh man. That big dude’s going to block my shot.’ He’s just fearless no matter who the opponent is. How big, fast, strong. He never backs down. That’s what I love most about him. He’s a dog.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark