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Colorado State Rams cap off successful recruiting week by adding Crocker-Johnson, Born

Justin Michael Avatar
May 4, 2024

The cavalry has arrived for Colorado State men’s basketball. 

Coming off of the news earlier this week that Ethan Morton (Purdue) and Keshawn Williams (Northern Illinois) will be taking their talents to Fort Collins, the Rams capped off a nice couple of days for the program by securing two more crucial transfers for the 2024-25 season. 

Jaylen Crocker-Johnson (Arkansas Little-Rock) and Bowen Born (Northern Iowa) each announced their commitment to the Green & Gold over a 24-hour span between Thursday and Friday. The additions bring the Rams one step closer to finalizing a roster for the upcoming season. 

Crocker-Johnson was the first to publicly announce his decision, doing so on “X” Thursday afternoon. His signing was then officially announced by CSU shortly afterwards.

The 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward is coming off of a breakout freshman campaign in which he averaged 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds on 49.8 percent shooting from the floor. He was named the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year for his efforts. 

Looking at some of his best performances, it’s easy to see that Crocker-Johnson played a key component in the Trojans closing the regular season strong. After going 1-2 over the first three games of the calendar year, the Trojans proceeded to go 12-1 over the next 13 games, and Crocker-Johnsons scored double-digit figures in half of them. 

It’s also not a massive sample size, however, he’s proven that he can go out on the road and play well too. Nearly half of his double-digit scoring games came in another school’s gym. For a true freshman, that’s quite encouraging. 

Watching Crocker-Johnson in action, it’s clear why the staff viewed him as a perfect fit. He’s a guy that can make an impact for you down low like a traditional big, but he can also help space the floor with perimeter shooting. He loves to take advantage of catch-and-shoot threes in the corner. And based on how willing he is to set screens for his teammates, I imagine he will get quite a few quality looks at the top of the key too, as well as chances to roll to the rim. 

On the defensive side, Crocker-Johnson is versatile and his quick feet allow him to come defend at the 3-point line and still be able to get back if an opponent drives on him. As he gains experience, he looks like a player that can be really impactful as a two-way standout. 

Nov 23, 2023; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Northern Iowa Panthers guard Bowen Born (13) controls the ball during the first half against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Born comes to CSU having played in 118 games (89 starts) for Northern Iowa over the last four years. 

Listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, the electric point guard is not somebody that is going to intimidate you while speaking at the podium or anything like that. That said, when the ball is in his hands, you definitely do not want to look away. 

Born has Steph Curry range from deep and is a 35-percent career shooter from beyond the arc. He’s legitimately a guy that can pull up from the logo and cash a three while a defender looks on with exasperation. The especially challenging part for opposing defenders, though, is that he’s also strong on the drive because he’s incredibly quick and has a nice pull-up game from mid-range. Born isn’t scared to attack the hoop and finish amongst the trees either. 

Coming off of a senior season in which Born’s efficiency dipped as a shooter, it will be interesting to see if he can get closer to his junior form when he averaged 37 percent from 3-point on nearly seven attempts per game. 

The thing is, CSU should not need him to carry the offense quite as much as UNI did. The important aspect for the Rams is having a couple of veterans like him and Williams that can create their own shot, especially with Isaiah Stevens no longer in the mix. 

Sure, it would be great if Born put 34 on the board like he did against Bradley in the 2023 Missouri Valley Tournament, and that was one day after dropping 23 in a win against Illinois State. In his career, Born has 19 performances of 20 or more points.

But so long as Born can be a steadying presence for CSU and knock down open shots when available, that’s really what the Rams are going to need most. It shouldn’t take 30 out of him on most nights, but can he give you 15 points and a couple of assists? If so, this CSU offense should be in a pretty good spot, particularly with the guys we know for sure are coming back. 

Defensively, Born has grown over the years, but his size is obviously limiting against certain individuals. I’m interested to see how the staff staggers the lineups this season to try and maximize CSU’s offensive output without sacrificing too much on the other end. The battle for minutes at the guard spots is definitely going to be interesting to follow.

Regardless of who ends up in the starting five and who ends up in the rotation, Ram Nation can take a collective sigh of relief after prematurely panicking over the state of the roster. This staff may work a little more quietly on the recruiting trail than most. But when it comes to finding quality fits for their system, Niko Medved and Co. know exactly what they’re doing.

With likely two open scholarships still to fill — depending on what Nique Clifford elects to do after the NBA Combine — the Rams could probably use another addition for the front court or potentially an additional wing. I don’t foresee any more major moves before we know 100 percent what Clifford is doing. Either way, I like the direction of the roster right now, especially with what’s happened around the Mountain West.

The Rams are ramping up to contend once again this fall. Moby Madness will be here before we know it.


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