Joe Dodson, Contributing Writer
Former VCU men’s basketball player Malik Crowfield was excited to celebrate his grandmother’s 80th birthday on Aug. 29, but his excitement would soon turn to panic as his hometown faced the brunt of Hurricane Ida.
Crowfield lives with his mother, stepfather and grandmother in his childhood home in LaPlace, Louisiana, a small town 30 minutes northwest of New Orleans that is a part of St. John the Baptist Parish.
The family evacuated around 35 miles northwest to a hotel in Gonzales, Louisiana. Crowfield and his family had to wait anxiously as his neighbor gave him updates for three days while they waited for the flooding to calm down in LaPlace.
“It was a long process,” Crowfield said. “We just hoped it didn’t mess up our house that bad, that’s what we were praying for.”
Crowfield returned to an entirely different looking property than he had left it. According to Crowfield, the house received five feet of flood water, molding the walls and covering the floors in mud, as well as high winds that knocked over trees and fences.
“You had to be careful when you walked through,” Crowfield said. “The couches were all over the place, knocked over, my mom’s plants fell over and some of my pictures were destroyed.”
His VCU diploma, along with his clothes and shoes, were among the items destroyed after the flooding reached his bedroom. Crowfield said he was grateful to still have his basketball senior night pictures.
“I put that on the bed, but other than that, I almost lost everything,” Crowfield said.
Several days later, Crowfield and his brother were surprised to find family photos that had traveled from the shed to inside the backyard pool. Crowfield said the smell of mold and overflowing sewage still fills the air.
More than 1 million homes in Louisiana and Mississippi were left without power due to the effects of the hurricane, according to the Associated Press.
The VCU men’s basketball fan base quickly sprung into action, sending Venmo donations until Crowfield had time to make a GoFundMe on Sept. 4, with the goal of raising $25,000 to repair his home. The goal was met just nine days after Crowfield created the fundraiser.
“I didn’t think I was going to raise that much,” Crowfield said. “That just shows you how much support goes into the fan base.”
VCU men’s basketball head coach Mike Rhoades described Crowfield as a consummate teammate who was well liked by his peers. When Rhoades heard about Crowfield’s situation, he began spreading word of his GoFundMe via social media.
“We don’t stop trying to help them,” Rhoades said of the 2020 graduate. “This was a case where Ram nation really stepped up and I just wanted to sort of get it going.”
Crowfield stayed with the Rams despite going through coaching changes after his freshman season.
Chris “Pav” Crowley, an alumnus and 20-year VCU fan, said that the fans had a lot of respect for Crowfield graduating as a Ram.
“From going as a starter as a freshman to a reserve by his senior year, most guys don’t put up with that; they would rather transfer,” Crowley said. “He didn’t, he stuck it out because he knew VCU was a place that cared about him.”
After giving his all on the court for four years, Crowley said he wasn’t surprised to see fans returning the favor.
“They know that he gave so much to us it’s only right that we give in return,” Crowley said.
This is not the first time Crowfield’s family has been impacted by hurricanes and flooding. In 2005, Crowfield’s family was forced to evacuate to Texas during Hurricane Katrina. Despite a new multi-million-dollar levee set to be completed soon in St. John the Baptist Parish, Crowfield said his family is considering moving from the area to avoid further destruction.
“We’re just making a decision, like do we want to rebuild it or just move to another destination where we don’t get no flooding like that?” Crowfield said.
With at least $25,000 raised, Crowfield’s family can start picking up the pieces and moving on to what’s next. It’s been two seasons since Crowfield donned the black and gold on the court, but the outpouring of support shows that VCU fans continue to care for its players off the court.
“To help somebody in need — that is one of our guys — tells you that we have so many people in Ram nation that do care about our guys beyond basketball,” Rhoades said.