Something that coaches look for in every basketball player is work ethic.
When a player is pouring sweat, when he can't feel his legs, when his breath is coming in exaggerated gasps and his lungs are heaving, does he have what it takes to push through and work to improve? For Texas signee Demarcus Croaker, that basketball work ethic hasn't been hard to find. He derives it from his mother, Tonette Jackson.
"I want to get my mom a better life," Croaker said. "I feed off my mom. Her situation … to be able to get her a better life is what I think about. Knowing that she's still working so hard for me makes me want to work for her."
Croaker said that his mother was "so very important" to him.
"She's had to play both that mother and that father role," Croaker said. "Everything that I do is for her."
And Croaker said his mother was "very proud," to see him sign with the Longhorns, especially after Croaker endured some academic troubles to make his dream of playing Division 1 ball a reality.
"But she also probably can't wait for me to leave out of the house," Croaker said, laughing.
Make no mistake: Croaker is a grinding scorer on the court, the type of player with the attitude to go out and get two points the hard way when the game is in the balance. It was that attitude that attracted the Longhorn staff, which was looking for a wing player who could fill it up without apprehension.
"I'm a go-getter," Croaker said. "If we need two points, I love to step up and say 'I will step up and get those two points.' That's just the mentality that I have.
"I think I have that scorer's mentality where I can go into a game, provide good minutes and go get points when we need them," Croaker said. "If we need a bucket, I believe I can go get it. That's just always how I've trained to play basketball."
Croaker was one of the top players in the state of Florida as a senior, averaging 23.9 points per game at Orlando (Fla.) Jones High School and finishing as a Class 4A Player of the Year finalist. But that didn't necessarily translate to a number of big offers — Croaker picked the Longhorns over Murray State — nor even the kind of recruiting ranking mention that those honors can often come with.
Croaker, who admitted he was a bit of a late-bloomer, is rated as a three-star prospect by Scout.com
"From a lot of other peoples' perspectives, they say 'oh, you're underrated', but it's all just politics to me," Croaker said. "So do people underrate me? I don't really focus on that. Everything is all cool with me. People go out there and play ball and have fun, and some people get ranked high and others don't."
Croaker also noted that recruiting rankings don't matter when a player hits campus. He'll likely be counted on immediately, especially with the transfers of Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis, two of the Longhorns' best players at his position.
"The way I look at it, yeah, I'm excited because there are fewer players at my position on the floor, which means I might have a chance to come in and start, or play more minutes," Croaker said. "But I mostly see it as whether they're there, or not there, I have to work hard. There isn't anything that is given to you. So I took it as me needing to step up and do more and work even harder."
Croaker said he's excited to head to Texas for the second summer session starting on July 12.
"I'm just ready for it," Croaker said. "I'm ready to get better, ready to get my work in, to train hard and become a better person and a better player.
"Really, I'm just ready to get to Texas," Croaker said. "I've been working for this. Hook 'em 'Horns."
Demarcus Croaker Senior Highlights (Courtesy of HomeTeamHoops)