Favorite athlete: Kobe Bryant
Favorite team: The Sixers
Favorite memory competing in sports: When it was the WGBL night, and all the younger kids were cheering us on.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: When I chipped my tooth at a game going for a rebound…
Music on playlist: Lots of 90s! My fav- “Sky’s the Limit”-Biggie Smalls
Future plans: Attend a four-year university and major in legal studies or psychology and I intend to go to law school after
Words to live by: “Stay far from timid, only make moves when your heart’s in it- and live the phrase ‘sky’s the limit’”-Biggie Smalls
One goal before turning 30: I want to travel to Italy and Greece
One thing people don’t know about me: I love going to museums.
By Mary Jane Souder
Sports or music? Music or sports?
That was the question facing Plymouth Whitemarsh senior Azzareya ‘Azzy’ Crumpton when she reached high school.
“My family is into both,” Crumpton said. “Those were definitely my main areas, and I was always around them.”
There was no mistaking the PW senior had a promising future in musical theater. In sixth grade, she had the lead role of Gabriella Montez in High School Musical and regularly was chosen for solos.
“Music was such a huge part of my life,” Crumpton said. “I started when I was three. I would have solos in plays, I sang in church, and I still sing in church.
“I was always singing, and I was definitely into instruments. I play viola, guitar and piano, and I taught myself the ukulele a little bit. I saw I had talent, and I could use it for something good.”
Crumpton had also been playing softball and basketball since she was a youngster, and she was drawn to the idea of playing high school basketball.
“Sports-wise, I always felt I was athletic, and I could pick up any sport in gym class, so I definitely felt both aspects were going to be huge eventually in my life, which they are,” Crumpton said.
Music may have seemed like the obvious choice for Crumpton since she appeared to be on the fast track to landing starring roles in the high school musicals, but in the end, it didn’t win out.
“I chose sports because I love sports and I knew that my time to play sports in high school was limited,” Crumpton said. “Music is something that I knew I was never going to lose, at least at this moment in time, and I wanted to get the best of both worlds in my time of high school. Ultimately, in the end, I was able to do both which I loved.”
While few athletes would find a way to incorporate their love of music with their passion for basketball, Crumpton was able to do just that, performing the National Anthem before all the girls’ varsity basketball team’s home games.
“She is just naturally blessed – she’s blessed with this amazing talent,” PW basketball coach Dan Dougherty said. “The director of our school musicals was a little sad she chose basketball, but he understood. He said, ‘Azzy is someone who could carry a show,’ she could carry an entire musical. She just has a natural gift. We certainly loved having her sing the anthem.”
Crumpton started every game except one (due to an injury) for the Colonials this winter, and although she wasn’t a headliner, she was an important player on PW’s SOL Colonial Division championship squad.
“Any time you see a kid who – as a ninth grader – I don’t even know if this kid will stick with it,” Dougherty said. “Then as a senior captain and a starter – she had some big basketball moments this year.
“She’s one of those kids – sometimes good things happen to good people. We’ve loved having her as part of the program. We hold her up as an example.”
A ‘Program Kid’
Crumpton – despite her love of basketball - didn’t grow up playing it year round like many of her peers.
“I never really did any AAU because I did summer musical camps when I was younger,” she said. “I was always around music. My mom’s side of the family is definitely more old timers like Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, the 60s and 70s feel.
“On my dad’s side of the family, it was more of the 90s – Biggie & Tupac and the older soul like Aretha Franklin, definitely more soul aspect.”
Her love of music was encouraged by PW orchestra director and advisor Maria O’Connor, whose career path followed a similar path as Crumpton’s.
“She was with me since kindergarten,” Crumpton said. “She moved up to the middle school and now she does the musical at the high school. She definitely was a huge part of the musical aspect of my life.”
As for basketball, Crumpton played for the freshman team in ninth grade, and after opting to not play sophomore year – the abbreviated COVID season, she returned to the court as a junior and was named captain of the JV and also dressed with the varsity
“I know people will say the typical – ‘Oh, a junior on jayvee,’ but I didn’t see it as that,” Crumpton said. “I saw it more as a learning opportunity to get myself prepared for my senior year.
“I used the practices as fundamental training. Not playing as a sophomore may have set me back. It was possible I could have been on varsity my junior year if I had played as a sophomore. I think that was just like a mental note I had to take a break from everything.
“Being on JV– coach B (Bridgette McKnight) was a huge supporter, and fundamentally, I knew I had to critique the smaller things to make a bigger impact. The intensity of practices we went through last year – it was a different mentality you needed to take, and it definitely prepared me for this year.”
At practices, Crumpton found herself going against an all-star lineup that featured seniors Lainey Allen, Jordyn Thomas and Kaitlyn Flanagan – all of whom are playing at the collegiate level.
“I was definitely inspired by them and the way they handled themselves on the court under all the pressure, and that’s something I wanted to be able to do, so I needed to mentally prepare myself for that as well,” Crumpton said.
“What I love about Azzy’s story is she’s a program kid,” Dougherty said. “Her ninth grade year she played on our ninth grade team, tenth grade year was COVID.
“It’s tough sometimes to convince a junior to play on JV but not her. She was just grateful for the opportunity. As a junior, she played jayvee and was a member of the varsity and the state championship team. She was a kid you need in order to win.
“Last year she might have appeared in five varsity games, but she carried the jayvee team. The five starters on JV are typically our scout team at practice. You have to embrace that role because you’re going to run up and down the floor and you get yelled at – ‘you’ve got to do this and this,’ you’ve got to learn the other team’s plays, and she embraced that role. You need good practice players to win championships.”
And win championships last year’s PW team did, rolling to a perfect 34-0 record and capturing one title after another along the way. The season was capped with a District 1 6A title that was followed with a PIAA 6A state title.
“It was so amazing,” Crumpton said. “Not even the support and love we felt from the community itself, it was just being on the floor and in the atmosphere of everything and knowing the previous day we had the practice we did and see how it paid off.
“Seeing how people take things into account and actually execute it on the floor. It was truly magical to see how the starting five (Flanagan, Thomas, Allen, Erin Daley and Abby Sharpe) and Angelina (Balcer) and Fiona (Gooneratne) could take the fundamentals that they learned and just apply them and play exquisitely.”
Each summer, Crumpton is a beloved counselor at Dougherty’s basketball camps.
“The little girls that come to all our games and make banners and all that stuff, they love Azzy,” Dougherty said. “Azzy is an outstanding camp counselor for us.
“She takes the first and second grade group, which is our biggest group at our summer camp, and she is just outstanding with those kids, helps them have a good time at camp. It’s been fun to watch.”
“I absolutely love it,” Crumpton said. “Being around kids all the time, I love the environment, I love being a role model, I love showing kids that you can do something if you really put your mind to it.
“The support from all the kids – it’s so sweet to see all the kids and how they look up to you and how they come to watch you. It’s truly something special that I wouldn’t trade for the world.”
Nor would she trade in her final high school season, which included the team’s fourth consecutive SOL Liberty Division title and this year’s SOL Tournament title.
“I knew going into this season, preseason especially, that I was going to have to step up because I knew I was going to be in the starting five,” Crumpton said. “I knew I was going to be the big on the floor, and I knew I was going to have to be the rebounder. I knew I was going to have to seal, so I could make opportunities for Abby, Erin, Angelina and AJ (Avery) to make their way through the court and have a high advantage scoring.”
Crumpton, according to her coach had an impressive debut, contributing seven points and 11 rebounds in PW’s win over Delone Catholic in the championship game of the season-opening tournament at West York.
“When we are talking to our ninth graders, we’re like – ‘Listen, you could be on JV, but you might not get to play. If you’re on the ninth grade team, you’ll get to play, and that’s how you get better,’” Dougherty said. “Here’s Azzy as an example of that. She got better her ninth grade year, she got better 11th grade year, and now she really paid dividends for us this year.”
According to Crumpton, playing with a pair of 1,000-point scorers in Erin Daley and Abby Sharpe was a special experience.
“Being on the court with Abby and Erin is such a calm feeling,” she said. “Yes, everything around us is going frantic. You feel like – Oh, we’re down by five, we’re down by seven, the time is running out, but there’s something about the way they handle themselves that brings such a calm feeling over the court. They’re constantly supportive, they’re constantly bringing people up. Even regardless of them being stressed, they always have a way to make everybody else feel better, and that definitely helped our team this season.”
The Colonials lost their bid to advance to the state tournament in a playback game, but Crumpton has no regrets.
“This season was very special to me, it was very special,” she said. “I saw it as – we were able to do what we could and the dedication that we put in as a team as a whole, the amount of hours of film, the practices, the team bonding, the four senior captains – things we discussed, things to say to the team to help them step up – and as the seniors, I think we did a great job of creating a safe environment for the team, and that’s probably the first thing you need when it comes to having a team – a friendship, a bond that everyone had. I think it was very special.
“Yes, it ended sooner than we all would have liked, especially the seniors, but I think looking back on the season as a whole, the legacy we left – it was just truly remarkable, and I think that is something we should always look at. I always like to look at the good as opposed to saying, ‘Well, we could have...’ ‘It would have been cool if…’ There’s nothing we can do now, but I think as a whole, the team did an amazing job this season.”
Crumpton, who is enrolled in honors classes, has not ruled out the possibility of playing basketball at the next level depending on her college choice.
“I’m deciding between two top colleges - either Drexel or Gwynedd Mercy,” she said. “Gwynedd Mercy would like me to play basketball for them.
“If I got to Gwynedd Mercy, I could probably major in psychology and then go to law school. If I go to Drexel, I would major in legal studies which gives me credit for law school.”
Becoming a lawyer is the end goal for Crumpton at either school.
“It’s just something that drives me,” she said. “I like the research, I like gathering the data, and I like applying it. I like saying it through my words and being able to defend something like that.
“My MomMom loves Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and I’ve watched that since I was young.”
Crumpton’s basketball story is vastly different than most high school players but equally gratifying for both sides.
“She’s not someone that works out with a personal trainer and plays basketball 12 months of the year,” Dougherty said. “But she got to be part of a state championship team, an SOL Tournament championship team. She’s refreshingly appreciative. She smiles, she says thank you, she was incredibly sad when the season ended, but she appreciated it.
“Her teachers love her. In this day and age, things like courtesy and manners go a long way. I’m very thankful for having her too.”