Last night, a national audience on ESPN saw the #1 Ohio State Buckeyes win their most important conference home game over the #12 Purdue Boilermakers in a game that was never even remotely close. A main reason why is freshman point guard Aaron Craft, who took home player of the game honors during the broadcast.
His box score wasn’t all that impressive, but it truly featured a little bit of everything.
This followed a game in which the Buckeyes came back from a big second half deficit to defeat the Illini; a game in which Craft harassed Demetri McCamey, one of the best point guards in the nation, into by far his worst shooting game of the season.
And this follows Craft’s Big Ten Freshman player of the week performance (1-17-11), a week in which he produced14.5 ppg, 56% fg, 60% 3pt.
By Paul M. Banks
I think it’s safe to say Craft is coming into his own now. His karaoke singing may be horrendous (as you can see in this video), but his basketball acumen is off the charts.
The Buckeyes lacked a true point last year. Enter Craft, a great distributing guard, who stepped into a starting role by showing the ability to feed the studs around him. After the win over the Illini, I had an exclusive with Craft and asked him if his teammates found a welcome relief in now having a true point guard.
“Absolutely, they don’t come out and say it, but I think that’s one of the greatest things about the seniors we have. They never took me aside and said, hey we need you to do this, we need you to do that. Just said come out and play your game and I’m fortunate to have just stepped into a great situation,” he responded.
Craft’s teammate Dallas Lauderdale described him as: “he does everything on the court. That’s an honest statement. He plays hard and does it all offensively and defensively.”
Craft is currently first in the conference in steals, third in assists and fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio. A high school valedictorian, he’s heady player that also likes to get physical in his game.
I also asked about how he defended McCamey, since he did the best job of anyone all year on him.
“The key to shutting him down is definitely a team effort. We watched a lot of tape and knew he’s great off ball screens, great at the end of the shot clock. Our bigs did a good job hedging and giving me enough time and whoever was guarding him enough time to get out in front. But he still made a lot of his plays with his passes,” he said.
Is defense Craft’s best trait?
“I think so, something I enjoy doing and take pride in, and that’s something I can do every time on the floor. Shots may not always fall, you might not make the right decisions all the time, but defense- that’s hard work and effort and something you can do every time you step on the court.”
Despite the exceptional season he’s having, he’s often overshadowed by his teammate, the #1 recruit in the nation.
Craft on what happens when teammate and national player of the year front-runner Jared Sullinger gets the ball inside:
“I assume he’s going to make the right decision. and that’s because we’ve been together for three years, we have that chemistry, that awareness and everyone knows that. He’s going to make the right decision, if they’re gonna double he’s going to kick it out. It’s just great having a player like that to take the pressure off”
He also answered a question on how to defend him
“You have to double him, you have to take chances of us missing shots from the outside. But then that puts you in a bind, because the rest of us know that we have to step up and make shots if that happens.”
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank