The Halifax Rainmen threw Eric Crookshank’s season-long suspension out the window yesterday.
The star forward was welcomed back to the Premier Basketball League team with open arms after serving less than half of a suspension that owner Andre Levingston once said would not be lifted under any circumstances.
Crookshank was banned with pay on Jan. 14 for “conduct detrimental to the team,” three days after publicly questioning head coach Rick Lewis for benching him.
Lewis, coincidentally, was fired on Tuesday.
Levingston said Lewis’ dismissal had “absolutely nothing” to do with the reinstatement. Rather, he said, Crookshank has “learned his lesson,” and that was the point all along.
“He knows now he’s going to be held accountable for his actions,” Levingston said. “He’s gonna think twice before he does something he feels he can get away with just because he’s an (athlete). He knows he has to conduct himself as a professional at all times and there are no excuses.”
The six-foot-eight Crookshank will throw on his familiar No. 20 on Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Metro Centre when the Rainmen (6-5) host the Vermont Frost Heaves (6-3). It’s a game pivotal to their quest for the Premier Basketball League playoffs.
Crookshank, who spent his seven games off the court speaking to youth about accountability, said he “never stopped smiling,” but admitted it was a tough three weeks.
“Playing basketball is the only thing that calms me down and makes me happy in life, besides my family,” he said. “I’ve learned there are consequences, and I’m hungry and determined and I think it’s a good time to bring me back.”
Crookshank, who has averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds in Halifax, is calling Sunday the “album-release party” for him and fellow star Rob Sanders — self-dubbed “Double Trouble” — and hopes for a big crowd.
“I would love for everybody that supported the Rainmen and myself to come out and have a big day for Halifax,” Crookshank said. “It’s a big game, and it’s a new beginning.”