On Friday, the #1 Ohio State Buckeyes experienced two things their team rarely experiences; an off-shooting performance and a close game resulting in overtime. Luckily for the Buckeyes, they were able to hold on and knock off the pesky Northwestern Wildcats by the score of 67-61 in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
Freshman Aaron Craft was particularly great on Friday with his hard-nosed defense and a sense of confidence which has you constantly asking how old is this kid.
Senior glue-man David Lighty summed up Craft perfectly by saying “He’s not a freshman, his play speaks for itself. He comes in and plays his role to perfection.”
By: Nick Grays
Craft’s teammates aren’t the only ones who have noticed how pivotal the guard is to the success of the #1 team in the country. The Big Ten named the freshman the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year for his significant production off the bench for the Buckeyes.
During the regular season, Craft averaged 6.9 points and 4.7 assists in just over 29 minutes per game. These aren’t numbers that will jump off the paper at you, but Aaron’s defense is something that will.
His 64 steals was tops in the Big Ten and he had memorable defensive performances against some of the Big Ten’s best in Jordan Taylor, Talor Battle and Michael Thompson.
In the tournament win versus Northwestern, Craft showcased another side of his game by going for 17 points with nifty moves to the basket, all while keeping that great defensive mentality.
Craft dedicates his progression throughout the season to the coaches and staff at Ohio State.
“I’ve definitely benefited from having the coaching staff we have and the seniors we have. They’ve always been there no matter if we’re up, no matter if we’re down, practice or in games, so I think that’s definitely a thing people take for granted is the leaders you have on your team and just on and off the court trying to get you ready,” said Craft.
When asked how he felt to play in his first collegiate basketball tournament, Aaron made an interesting comparison.
“I’m a little younger than some of the guys we have on this team, but it reminds me of AAU. The games are a little longer and more physical, but overall I’m excited to play another day,” said Craft.
Craft also had a very mature answer when asked whether a loss before the tournament could possibly benefit the Buckeyes.
“Anytime you can play as long as you can is good, you don’t want to be home. Game experience is good whether it’s a close game or a blowout,” said Craft. “We’re here to win like everyone else.”
Tomorrow, the Buckeyes will take on the winner of Illinois/Michigan match-up. If you can see past Craft’s boyish looks, you will see a game way more mature than the kid’s freshman status.
What do you think of Buckeye’s freshman point-guard Aaron Craft? Has he progressed into a legitimate starting point guard come next season? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior editor at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Brewers. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.