After a sophomore season in which he was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft is wreaking havoc once again on both sides of the court, averaging 1.8 steals and 8.7 points per game this season. In this week’s Sports Illustrated, senior writer Alexander Wolff examines how Craft’s intelligence, experience as a high school football player, and dedication to studying opponents on film makes him as valuable in his own way to Ohio State as shot blockers like Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton were to UCLA in another era.
Ohio State head coach Thad Matta says Craft’s name would come up most often:
“if you polled every coach in this league and asked who they’d want on defense if they’re up one with the other team running an isolation (PAGE 66).”
Craft, an academic All-American (3.9 GPA), is almost too good to be true: he’s the first one in and out of the gym every day, he writes bible verses on his sneakers, still dates his high school sweetheart, can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 55 seconds and neither tweets nor follows anyone’s feed. Through the eyes of the most creative and intelligent defensive player in the game, his assignment isn’t so much a player to guard, it’s a problem to solve.
“He physically beat up our guards,” said Florida coach Billy Donavan after a loss to the Buckeyes last season. “And I’m not saying our guards got fouled. Totally within the context of the rules of the game, he manhandled them (PAGE 68).