Scrappy Come Home: The 11W Aaron Craft Mixtape

By Ramzy Nasrallah on March 5, 2014 at 11:15a
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26 Comments

It's an unexpectedly sour time for Ohio State basketball.

The Buckeyes are losers of two consecutive extremely-winnable games against teams that will be battling each other for NIT superiority later this month. They can't shoot threes. They can't shoot twos. THEY CAN'T SHOOT ONES. IT'S BASKETBALL - THERE ARE NO OTHER SHOTS.

The season can't end soon enough, you say, hoping to rip the bandage off your fragile psyche as quickly as possible. Unfortunately there's a problem with your easy way out, fair weather enthusiast: Closing time for the 2014 season coincides with our eternal goodbye to Aaron Craft as an Ohio State basketball player.

It's finally coming to an end. The embodiment of the young man every father in the history of the cosmos would want his daughter to marry has one home game left to play in what had previously been viewed as a prolific college career without a beginning or end.

That perception of perpetuity was all a lie. In a matter of days you won't be cheering for him to help limp the Buckeyes to victory. You'll have to settle for rooting for him in the game of life.

This disappointing season shouldn't dissuade you from appreciating Craft's legacy: As a true freshman he stunned us all and made a good team great. That edition of Ohio State basketball went 34-3 and was the only thing that kept getting you out of bed as the Tatgate onslaught nearly swallowed your will to live.  

suck it, Cyclones
Ending Iowa State's 2013 season with that hitch.

Freshman Craft made the B1G All Defensive Team, Freshman Team, was its Sixth Man of the Year 2011 and even made Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. And the best part was you knew he'd be around three more times.

As a senior, he's seemingly incapable of making a mediocre team markedly better, but this may be because once you peel away at the mythical layers that have been applied to his translucent exterior you can clearly see Craft is, if anything, unbelievably consistent. The teams and teammates don't matter - Craft's statistics remain the same.

His points per game, rebounds, steals, assists - even his inexplicable free throw shooting percentage - are all practically identical year over year, from that award-collecting freshman year through his final season. If you interpret that as he didn't improve then try to wrap your head around the difference between feeding Dallas Lauderdale, Jared Sullinger and David Lighty versus Amir Williams, Trey McDonald and LaQuinton Ross.

Craft may be Ohio State's glue but he isn't equipped to be a Band-Aid. Unlike Ted Ginn, he can't do everythin'. But we love him so much. Craft is the most comforting Buckeye basketball player since Jimmy Jackson. Can you name Ohio State senior point guards that came before Craft? I'll start you off with PJ Hill. Jamar Butler. Je'Kel Foster. Brandon Fuss-Cheatham. Shaun Smith. You haven't had recurring backcourt comfort like Craft this century.

His basketball efficacy often makes dumb sportswriters dumber. He dives through cheerleaders after loose balls, takes no possessions off and he plays basketball with the kind of joy which quietly tells you that unlike 99.9% of college students, his youth isn't being wasted on the young. 

Craft is the most comforting Buckeye basketball player since Jimmy Jackson.

Maurice Clarett, at the height of his burgeoning popularity during his freshman year in 2002 was asked why he refused to shy away from contact in the name of self-preservation. His answer only made him more popular with Buckeye fans: I think about the guy who works 80 hours a week and takes on extra shifts to make more money. That guy paid $45 to get into the Ohio State game. I don't think he paid $45 to see me run out of bounds - I think he paid to see me run someone over and score touchdowns.

Craft plays basketball like Clarett played football: Relentless determination in doing whatever he can to help the entire team succeed. The glaring difference is Clarett delivered on his promise for about ten games while Craft has given us 145. He played a bunch of those games with bone chips floating around his ankle and stabbing him and he didn't complain. We hate complainers. We love tough guys who don't act tough.

We're suckers for players with big hearts, and so we're going to miss Craft terribly.  College sports reunites oldsters with their youth, and Craft has been one of Ohio State's greatest vehicles for our time travel that we have had in a long time.

When you were young and couldn't find the right words, you turned to lyrics. After four years of superlatives, steals, cheeks, that shooting motion, innumerable dives into rows of photographers, game-winning shots, a few air balls and 116 wins (and counting! and counting!) Craft has earned the right to an 11W Mixtape.

Here is your soundtrack, sir. You made it easy.

The unnecessary explanations:

1. Swoon - the official hashtag of when Aaron Craft does Aaron Craft things.

2. Rosy Cheeks - the rosacea beard Craft grows during basketball games; a gift from mom.

3. Taco Night - for openly driving his love of tacos into the mainstream.

4. He Loves You - referring to the effusing praise from Dan Dakich, Craft's rumored real father. 

5. Everybody Loves You - this song is obviously about us.

6. Everybody Hates You - and this one is about everybody but us.

7. Tennessee Sucks - thank you eternally, Bruce Pearl.

8. No Foul, No Harm - for the detractors who feel Craft hand-checked his way into being one college basketball's greatest defenders. 

9. Rubik's Cube - it has 43,252,003, 274,489,856,000 permutations. Craft's got 43 quintillion problems, but quickly solving a Rubik's Cube ain't one.

10. Hitch Hike - that shooting motion is anything but smooth, but every school has its ten greatest scorers of all time, and Ohio State's already includes Craft.

11. Angel - it's a song that invokes images of animal cruelty. Dogs, mostly. Craft is no Michael Vick but he's taken down his fair share of Gophers, Wildcats, Badgers, Lions, Wolverines and whatever a Hoosier is. This serves as a requiem for his victims. (Think back four years, not just the past month).

12. Scrappy Come Home - Craft wins White Athlete Superlative BINGO™ every single time he's a topic of conversation: He's scrappy, determined, blue-collar, gritty, poised and deceptively athletic. Craft doesn't make mistakes, his teammates respect him, he's a veteran, smart and does all the little things.

They're all true. That doesn't mean they're not white guy clichés.

13. Thief's Theme - Craft broke Ohio State's career steals record before his junior year ended. His sophomore and freshman seasons rank #1 and #5 in Ohio State history for steals.

As a senior he's projecting to overtake the #3 spot that's currently held by...his junior year. Craft will leave Ohio State as the Big Ten's all-time steals leader, breaking a 28-year old record. He owns four of the six theftiest seasons in Ohio State history.

Larceny: It sneaks up on you with glowing red cheeks, robs you with its subtle hand-checks and then leaves you reeking of taco meat.

14. Number 4 - Ohio State may not retire it, but...it's his. The next guy is just borrowing it.

BUTT PASS
Adreian Payne's butt: One career Craft assist.

15. Assist - He's got 86 more than anyone else in Ohio State history. He should easily extend that to over 100 once he's played his final game. Can you think of any another statistic where the career leader has 100 more than the next guy?

(It's a trick question - Craft currently has 119 more steals than the next closest Buckeye.)

16. Gritty - [checks BINGO card] BINGO!

17. The Craft - Beyond the superlatives, there was the media love affair. Did you know Craft is the perfect roommate? That he's eternal? He's the second coming of Tim Tebow? No, no - he's Rafael Nadal. Really. Aaron Craft is me. Aaron Craft is you. He is all of us.

18. You're a Winner - BINGO AGAIN. BINGO FOREVER.

Thank you for your four record-crushing, memorable years, sir. It was our pleasure.

26 Comments

Comments

buckeyeEddie27's picture

Paging 3cent,

Paging 3cent,

Please come dump all over this immediately.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

psibuck's picture

If I were granted 3 wishes they would be:

1. World peace

2. End world hunger

3. 12 years eligibility for Aaron Craft

 

+2 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

12 years - just like David Lighty huh?

+1 HS
KevinJ's picture

For the record it's David Freaking Lighty ; - )

+2 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Sorry bout that - I'll try and remember next time........

+1 HS
Doc's picture

Ramzy said it best.  What is understood doesn't need to be discussed.  We love you Aaron, now and forever.

"Say my name."

+2 HS
UrbanCulture's picture

Jamar Butler...one of the most underappreciated players in recent memory.

The way he handled Mike Conley coming and taking his starting PG role was pure class.

+4 HS
yrro's picture

On the other hand, if you believe how Titus tells it, he wasn't exactly the greatest teammate after Conley left.

Unky Buck's picture

Man I'm going to miss this kid. It was an absolute joy watching him play. Some have said recently that he's a liability on offense, and that may be, but given the right compliment of players around him, I think he can thrive, as he did his first 3 seasons. Is it necessarily his fault that the rest of the team is underachieving?

And Ramzy...this is one hell of a line...

9. Rubik's Cube - it has 43,252,003, 274,489,856,000 permutations. Craft's got 43 quintillion problems, but quickly solving a Rubik's Cube ain't one.

If people can't appreciate the beauty in that, they may have more than 43 quintillion problems.

...

+3 HS
Buckeye1004's picture

Thank you Aaron Craft.  Good Luck!

+1 HS
Ashtabula's picture

At times, it is more enjoyable and satisfying to lose with players like Aaron Craft than it is to win with players like...

+2 HS
BuckeyeSouth's picture

I'm much more bummed out about this being Craft's last year than I am with the team's performance this season.  I would have loved to see him go out with the Bucks winning the conference outright, the conference tournament and making a deep March Madness run.  I wish him the best in all that he does but I also feel like he doesn't need the well-wishes as he does everything to the fullest extent of his abilities.  Thanks for everything, Mr. Craft.

Embrace it.

+1 HS
jumbo_shells83's picture

Hey gang, long time listener, first time caller.

It has been so great to have the "guy everybody hates" around the country. Why talk so much smack? Because he didnt choose your school to play for? Because he shuts your PG down? This kind of effort and grit doesn't come around too often. It could be 30yrs before we see the kind of effort he puts on display. I'll never forget the times when he has been challenged by great offensive PG's and just shuts them down.  Idk, Im just gonna miss the effort plays.

Do work Aaron.

The American people sleep peacefully at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

+3 HS
Earle's picture

I never, ever thought that I would read a cogent comparison between Aaron Craft and Maurice Clarett.

 

Italics are for emphasis.

+7 HS
theobi's picture

I'm getting emotional reading this

+2 HS
JakeStevensIsSwag's picture

Sunday is going to be a sad day. :(

Buckeye fan from PA

+2 HS
mrspray's picture

Great write up - I didn't realize until Sunday night that his (and Lenzelle's) senior night was coming up so quickly. That recruiting class has indeed left a significant mark on the program that I don't think will be forgotten very soon.

+3 HS
rosycheeks's picture

Rosy Cheeks is my favorite.

+1 HS
Nutinpa's picture

The best line in the write up was soberingly clear.

Craft has gone from feeding Sully, Lauderdale and Lighty to:  Amir, Trey and Q. 

And we wonder why he doesn't look so good at times. 

Yes, he has been guilty of forcing the ball into the paint late in games this season. But the more I think about it, if I were him, looking around at my court mates, I'd be tempted to do the same thing.

Aaron, we'll miss ya, lad!

+1 HS
OSUFlash's picture

That's a great quote from Maurice Clarett. We will be talking about a fair skinned, red headed Aaron Craft for many years to come. Yes he has his flaws by missing too many lay ups and maybe too many free throws but think about how lucky we are to have landed this young man at our University. We have a lot of legends at this school and he no doubt will be one of them.

He will be missed but all good things must come to an end and I am really looking forward to next years team. Hopefully a freshmen steps up and captures the heart of the fans and here we go again.

osuflash

OldColumbusTown's picture

I never truly thought seeing one particular player graduate or leave the program could tug at my emotions the way I am sure this will when the season ends.  Craft is one of a kind.  I realize some get frustrated on here because they see the team losing, see Craft making mistakes, and yet no one wants to place any blame on Craft.  But, when you see a kid pour his heart and soul, let alone body, into the program and university the way Mr. Craft has, it's hard to look down on him for anything he may do that isn't perfect.

Living now in the town Craft first made his name, and sending my kids to a school Craft once called his own, has given me a little extra perspective on the person of Aaron Craft.  Everyone knows you usually hear of one or two things that happened that maybe don't jive with someone's public profile, or kids who attended school with a "star" who can rattle off instances that may make you think twice about "fawning" over a human being.  That, my friends, is not the case with Aaron Craft.  He's an ordinary kid who does things extraordinarily well and with extraordinary dignity and respect for the process.

  Like I said... he's one of a kind and will be truly missed in not seeing him suit up in the scarlet and gray when that time soon comes.

+1 HS
OSUFlash's picture

Very well said oldcolumbustown.

Whoever down voted my comment is a real piece of work.

osuflash

-1 HS
Craft to the Rafters's picture

joined the 11w at the height of Craft's popularity (hence the handle), and although the team is now struggling, that has had no effect on Craft's playing style or effort. We are not winning much these days, but the next generation of Buckeyes, whether they are currently riding the pine or watching from home, are figuring out what Buckeyes aspire to by watching Craft carry himself. His energy and team-play make you want him to succeed not just because he is a Buckeye and not just as basketball player.

Say it with me now - Craft to the Rafters.

PS - Can someone with connections please get UFM to pick Craft up at safety as a grad student? How did Coach Paulus pull that off??

+1 HS
rms45's picture

I can't wait for this guy to graduate. I love the style of play, the hustle etc but for a guard that can't shoot...come on...frizzle frazzle...

RMS45

-1 HS
Nutinpa's picture

Well 45, depending on the status or quality of OSU Guard play next year, you will either be vindicated for being glad he moved on....or look pretty silly. 12 months from now, we'll both know!