Killing Me Softly

By Ramzy Nasrallah on March 27, 2012 at 2:00p
88 Comments
'scuse me pardon me pardon me 'scuse me pardon me 'scuse meAaron Craft hurries back to the court after blocking a shot attempt by 6"10 Syracuse C Baye Keita (Lauron/Dispatch)

"Amir! Amir! You've got to dunk that (expletive)!"

The five Buckeyes on the floor were heading toward their bench for the under-eight minute TV timeout in Saturday night's Eastern Regional Final against Syracuse following a missed bunny by third-string center Amir Williams. He had to be as disappointed by his miss as he was surprised to be even playing in that first half.

Williams could not have imagined more tenuous circumstances for his entry into a Final Four play-in round. Jared Sullinger had collected his second foul (or more appropriately - "foul") at the 13:43 mark, promptly sending Ohio State's star to the sideline for the balance of the first half.

Backup Evan Ravenel came in to bridge the Buckeyes into the break, but exactly five minutes later he too was carrying a pair of fouls.

That left the duties at the five to the freshman Williams, whose benchwarming resume this season includes notching a Trillion vs Purdue and squandering another against the Boilermakers in the Big Ten Tournament with a block in the waning seconds of the blowout. He had seen either scant or no playing time in 20 of Ohio State's 30 games.

Yet there he was on the court early in the Elite Eight; Ohio State's third center off the bench and in the center of the Buckeyes' scoring strategy.

Thad Matta's offensive plan against Syracuse was to respectfully decline their 2-3 zone defense's invitation to hoist distant threes in favor of squeezing the ball into the high post, goading the Orange defenders to collapse before moving it inside to what should have been Ohio State's two-time All America big man for a high-percentage finish.

The plan worked well on Williams' first offensive possession and he found himself with the ball in position to make a Sullinger-like play on the basket. Instead, he turned it over.

After an errant Syracuse jump shot at the other end, the Buckeyes came down and ran the same play. The blueprint worked once again, however this time instead of losing the ball Williams went up with hesitation and failed to finish, but not before being fouled.

He would be shooting free throws coming out of the timeout. He walked back to the bench with his head down before hearing his name, which lifted his stare from his shoes.

"Amir! Amir! You've got to dunk that (expletive)!"

That wasn't his head coach shouting him down. It was his cheeky point guard, arms raised above his head simulating a thunderous finish, smiling genially as if he was on the verge of laughter.

At the exact moment that Aaron Craft was playfully soothing his younger big man's anxiety, his older brother and army infantryman Brandon was a mile over the Pacific Ocean en route to a mission in Afghanistan as part of his first deployment. If the sophomore guard from Findlay was nervous, disquieted or uneasy, he wasn't showing any of that.

And that demonstration wasn't out of character, either. This was vintage middle-child Craft in the throes of any basketball game: Relaxed yet still poised for maximum disruption and constantly enabling and encouraging his teammates to finish what he starts.

#2 for Loyola aptly demonstrating what his victims have come to refer to as OHSHITCRAFT faceCraft collects his 84th steal of the season against Loyola-MD

Ohio State's sophomore leader keeps the four other big fish operating as a single, unfragmented unit at both ends of the court. Sullinger, his long-time AAU teammate (who literally begged Thad Matta to reserve a roster spot for the then-Tennessee verbal commitment) has long been accustomed to Craft's methods. His other teammates have learned quickly.

He's good for almost nine points each game, which might actually seem high for a lineup already stocked with prolific scorers. Regardless, Craft isn't regularly called on to make baskets.

He works much further up in the basketball supply chain, turning his opposing guard inside-out, manufacturing the transition and constructing the set before relinquishing control to those that finish Ohio State's goods, like Sullinger. Or in this case, Williams.

Craft initiates everything the Buckeyes do. Sure, he's also happy to finish, but that's outside of the scope of what has made him into that enigmatic player that opposing fans rue with excessive self-loathing because they fully realize if he was on their team he would easily be everyone's favorite player.

Pundits love to characterize players into convenient, bite-sized definitions either through statistics or stories that tug at the human condition: Craft can effortlessly solve the Rubik's cube in about a minute. Craft is a first team Academic All American.

Craft is the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year. Craft is [lazy euphemisms traditionally reserved for modestly-sized caucasian athletes].

While all of that is true, Craft's most important contribution to his team is his self-appointed hybrid role as a precocious coach on the floor, on-court therapist and archetypal curator of unrelenting effort that is both contagious and inspiring. That value cannot accurately be measured with stat sheets.

He is the catalyst who starts everything the Buckeyes finish. On Saturday he started his third-string center.

"Amir! Amir! You've got to dunk that (expletive)!"

Twenty seconds following that under-eight TV timeout, Williams aggressively snatched away a rebound from Syracuse forward CJ Fair. On the Orange's next possession he blocked center Baye Keita's layup. A minute later he swatted forward Kris Joseph's shot into the fourth row. Then he collected another defensive rebound and Craft started the transition.

At the other end of the floor the Buckeyes broke that 2-3 zone once more, and Ohio State's third-string freshman center found himself at the basket with the ball in his hands yet again.

This time there was no hesitation: Williams elevated with purpose and scored with a thunderous finish that immediately brought the fans in scarlet to their feet in uproarious approval.

Amir had done as he was told. He dunked that (expletive). The stat sheet shows that the final pass to Williams was delivered by DeShaun Thomas, who had slipped inside the zone to set the big man up for a high-percentage finish.

However, the assist to Williams came from the Buckeyes' cheeky point guard, who was already getting back on defense and smiling genially as if he was on the verge of laughter.

You can still get into the game for $260. Partying a win away on Bourbon Street is a pretty awesome feeling.

88 Comments

Comments

hodge's picture

One of my favourite buckeyes, period.

snoodogg22's picture

Good (expletive)! Would love to see Amir get a few more minutes.

Tough times never last, tough people do

NW Buckeye's picture

I have not seen a replay of the quote to Amir.  Does anyone have it recorded?  Would love to watch it again. 

chitown buckeye's picture

Yes me too!! I was in a bar watching the game and never saw it!

"I'm having a heart attack!"

pcon258's picture

i also missed it (on a bus back to school). not that it makes a difference, but if anyone knew where to find a video, or had it dvr'd, it would be much appreciated

Doc's picture

I've got it on my DVR at home.  Unfortunately I have no time, nor the know how to know how to get it off of said DVR and on to this fine site.  You can very plainly see Aaron walk up to Amir and tell him to dunk that mf'er.  I started laughing out loud and my Mom asked "What did he say?"  It was classic.

"Say my name."

awwwwwwop's picture

http://www.ncaa.com/mml/player/console.html?gameid=http://www.cbssports....

That is the link to the game replay console if you have the march madness on demand thing.  You can just fast forward until you get around the 8 minute mark. if i can figure out how to capture it i will.

"Who cares? Go Bucks." - Aaron Untch

The_Lurker's picture

The mouseovers...they are brilliant.

RBuck's picture

Yeah, but I think the mouseover on the leap out of the stands should read "It's a bird, it's a plane...".

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

Seabass1974's picture

I love the mouseovers too. Time for me to buy some sperm shoes!

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

Joe Beale's picture

Speaking of the mouseovers, did anyone besides me have this thought when he read the mouseover on the first picture: "I'm Aaron Craft, d*** glad to meet you."

DefendOhio's picture

Findlay finally has an athlete to be proud of. I love telling people he is from my hometown. 

ColdBuckeye's picture

...and  Domino's cheesy bites!

GABuckeye's picture

Craft is a baller.  He is exactly the type of player coaches dream to have.  

Amir is going to be REALLY good too.  He just needs to dunk that (expletive).

RBuck's picture

Craft=Future Head Coach

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

Doc's picture

Aaron is becoming my favorite BB Buckeye ever.  Just the drive he has to be the best he can be is so fun to watch.  Throw on top of it he is smart and not all tatted up.  He has a bright future in front of him no matter what he decides to do.  Thanks for being a Buckeye Aaron.

"Say my name."

Craft to the Rafters's picture

I'm with ya Doc. he does everything out there the right way. love that we'll get to watch him play for 4 yrs, and then as my 11W handle says, it's up to the rafters for jersey #4.

DarthSweaterVest's picture

What is wrong with tattoos?

Doc's picture

THIS IS JUST MY OPINION I AM NOT TRYING TO START ANYTHING!!! 

To me tattoos look thugish and I like to see arms and legs ink free.  If you have a tattoo that's fine.  I personally think they look bad and now that everyone and their brother has one they are played out.

"Say my name."

DarthSweaterVest's picture

and I will respect your opinion, and cheerfully disagree. 

buckeyefanatic's picture

+1

How many batteries does it take to beat Michigan football?   1AA
Want to beat Michigan? There's an App for that.

Doc's picture

Thanks for the respect Darth.  I'm pretty much an old fuddy duddy, just ask my wife.  I thought about getting a tattoo when I was in college back in the late 80's and early 90's, but could never decide what I wanted on my body forever.  Now I'm glad I never got one.

"Say my name."

Nappy's picture

Gotta agree with Darth on this but I understand why people don't like them.  I'd love to have some full sleeves but being in the corporate world prevents it. 

Fan of bacon since 1981

buckeyechad's picture

I got a nice block O logo, only one I can think I would ever want

Seabass1974's picture

I got one right when I turned 18. Well 20 years later and I wish I was ink free. It cost $150 at the time but if I want it removed will cost right around $1000 - $1500. I'm not quite ready to sink that kind of money into returning myself to being tattoo free.

 

I agree with you Doc about the tattoos. Although getting A (in the singular sense) tattoo is not a big deal, getting as much ink as a lot of these guys looks beyond terrible.

 

As with everything though, to each his own and GO BUCKEYES!!!

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

"I like to see arms and legs ink free" but a tramp stamp is awesome....

Doc's picture

"Mousewife to momshell in the time it took to get that new tattoo."

Seriously, even those are a turn off.  Call me a purist.  I like to see all that unblemished skin. 

"Say my name."

cbusbuckeye's picture

Tramp Stamps are disgusting

btalbert25's picture

A woman who gets a strawberry on her breast when she's 20 ends up with a chili pepper at 50.

Doc's picture

A butterfly will turn in to a pterodactyl over that same time frame as well. :)  My sister-in-law has an arrow tattoo in the "bikini" region.  My wife and I joke that the arrow is now a javelin.

"Say my name."

Rooster Buckburn's picture

An arrow in the bikini region?  LOL...

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

I was joking! I have no issues with tats tho. I just don't know how so many high schoolers are doing it.

DarthSweaterVest's picture

I think the problem is most people don't think their tattoos through, I have my children's names wrapped around my forearms as it looks cool and also has meaning for me.  In the Klingon language and evlish runes.  Also Klingon symbol on my back for me.

buckeyedude's picture

I put a lot of thought into the one a only tattoo I have...got a tat above my butt crack that says, "exit only."

 

 

hodge's picture

I know a guy that had a "Do Not Enter" sign tattooed in the same area.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Nothing. As long as you don't trade your gold pants for them.....

faux_maestro's picture

THIS. This is what I think of when ever I see a player tatted up "I wonder what he sold to get that tat". Sorry if this makes me a bad person but it's my first thought.

Inní mér syngur vitleysingur

Doc's picture

I too wonder how they can afford them.

"Say my name."

buckeye76BHop's picture

I thought that ALL year last football season when I saw those seniors that should have never played in a bowl game.  Gotta love Gene Smith and that always elegantly speaking one in the bow tie for that one.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Denny's picture

Nothing was wrong with tattoos until Terrelle Pryor used them to conjure the dark lord Sarumon, which resulted in Sarumon casting a dark spell over all of Ohio.

Taquitos.

hodge's picture

So we really should have somehow sent Pryor back to Jeanette, back to the fiery chasm from whence he came?

Denny's picture

Yais.

Taquitos.

BrewstersMillions's picture

Here in Chicago, there isn't much to talk about in the college basketball world, short of how a school that is literally swimming in a hotbed of talent (DePaul) can't remain at least relevant or how a supposed 'college basketball power' can't find anyone to coach them for 2.5 million per year (I'll believe Groce is the coach when he is on the recruiting trail wearing blue and orange). So the sports analysts on talk radio talk about the final four and have been sort of on OSU all year. They are all of the mind that Sully is over rated and Craft isn't the defender his reputation lends him to be. Specifically there is a producer on one show who hosts from time to time who knows his BBall actually quite well. When it comes to his NBA knowledge he's as good as they come but he refers to Craft as "A case where the guy stealing the ball isn't a good defender". Dude happens to be a huge Michigan fan too and was abundantly clear on his stance on Craft when Burke sort of had his way with Craft in AA. He didn't say anything when the teams met in the B1G Tourney and Craft sent Burke out with a whimper. Regardless, he keeps saying "Wait. Wait and see, you'll see. Craft will get exposed as being a bad defender. He isn't as good as people claim". Of course its been 30 some games now and I can think of exactly 1 stinker Craft had and about 20 others that he flat our dominated. I guess if you keep saying something, eventually it will come true....Craft is the man.

Do I come off as arrogant? Shame on me, I was hoping it would more obvious.

buckeyefanatic's picture

Photographs don't usually lead to good tshirts but there should be an Amir! Amir! You've got to dunk that (expletive)! shirt on Skreend.  Maybe #4 with rage face and arms in the air.  Although Craft did not have rage face ... maybe troll face?

How many batteries does it take to beat Michigan football?   1AA
Want to beat Michigan? There's an App for that.

Doc's picture

"You've got to dunk that!" shirts would sell like crazy.  Especially if they wind up winning the entire enchillada.

"Say my name."

Dean's picture

Second that.  Waiting for it to show up in Buckshots...

buckeyedude's picture

Was thinking the same thing! I'd like to order 5 of them at least.

 

 

Denny's picture

I don't see too good, is that David Eckstein on the basketball floor?

Taquitos.

Ohioste's picture

I immiediately was texting after I rewound the DVR to make sure I caught that just right. I was laughing pretty hard.

 

I had made a few comments that of all the players I've been able to see wear the Buckeye basketball uniform, Aaron is by  far my favorite. He may not be the most talented or athletic but he plays the game the way it should be.

 

I play basketball every Saturday, and would love to have him on my team to see what he's like and see if he'd tell me (6'1, 15 lbs overweight guy) to dunk that m'fer.

ARMYBUCK's picture

@DOC,  I couldn't agree with you more about him quickly becoming my all time favorite buckeye.  For me he is right there with Chris Jent and David Lighty!  You always knew they were going to leave it on the floor.  You dont have to be the best just give your best to make my list!

 

Doc's picture

I'm with ya ArmyBuck.  Playing like your hair is on fire and leaving it all on the floor every single game gets you right up there for "Favorite Buckeye" status.  Lighty was that guy for sure, now AC is filling that role.  His play against 'Cuse where he strips the ball, saves it, crashes into the stands, and hussles ass back down court is Aaron Craft in a nutshell.  To bad he turned it over on the other end, but that is besides the point.  I just love that kid.

"Say my name."

JakeBuckeye's picture

I am always amused when broadcasts zoom in our players faces after key plays, fouls, TV time outs, etc. etc. Willie Buford usually has the foulest mouth. Even after a good play he'll let an expletive go in excitement. Sully got pretty angry on Saturday and lamented; "That's some f***ing bull****." But needless to say, I was surprised and pumped up after I saw what Craft said.

dbit's picture

I think I was screaming the same thing at the TV.  Was some BS.

JakeBuckeye's picture

Also, on the tattoo topic, the tats weren't what got us in trouble. The selling of players' memorabilla and the illegal benefits are what got us in trouble. The tattoos were just the tool used.

If a player gets busted for a DUI or gets caught getting free cars, its not the car that got the player in trouble. The car is just a tool used to make a dumb decision. Should we ban the team from having cars in that case? You're essentially saying the same thing when you complain about a player having tattoos.

Rooster Buckburn's picture

Not sure Craft actually uses that kind of language - I think that would be a little out of character for him.  Maybe he said 'dunk that fricker' or something like that....

JakeBuckeye's picture

He most certainly said "Mother ******". I have it taped and I've rewatched that part plenty of times, haha.

Rooster Buckburn's picture

How about 'dunk that mother scratcher'? ;)

buckeyechad's picture

Are there actually people that never swear?... serious question

Denny's picture

I work with a guy who never does, ever. After bumping another car in the parking lot he just said 'oh jeez'. It was amazing.

Taquitos.

cjkanski's picture

Yes.  It took me awhile after I got out of the Navy to realize just how dumb I sounded when I was around " the guys ".  I was always pretty good at not slipping around kids or the public.  I stopped using 3 words & started using hundreds more appropriate.  I believe it's made me better off.

buckeyedude's picture

I've watched the game over and Craft clearly said "Amir! Amir! Dunk that mother fricker!"   White kids don't use the "f" word. Duh.  Then, after the cameras were looking the other way, Craft finished by saying, "Don't make me have to beat yo azz, my 'N word.'"

 

 

buckeyedude's picture

C'mon man. I have teenage boys.  You are not that naive, are you? I hear it every day in the hood. Teenagers are anti-politically correct when they are not being brainwashed by their teachers.

It was simply meant to be funny. Never mind.

 

 

Denny's picture

Most of us aren't teenagers and, thank Jebus, have moved on from that "humor".

Try harder, but more importantly try smarter.

Taquitos.

Doc's picture

Jake, your comment is funnier than shit if you have ready Titus' book.  Especially since you have WillieB as your avie.  Mark has an entire chapter about him saying the "N word" in front of Will and Will's reaction.  Mark wrote that Buford is his favorite teammate ever.

"Say my name."

JakeBuckeye's picture

11W really needs to have some sort of "rec" or "like" button for comments exactly like Denny's.

Huth's picture

Where did this Craft image come from? Any way to get the side view of him jumping the camera man made into a poster? Signature moment of this Final Four run IMO.

rider1's picture

WhaT people don't see is that Craft keeps the opposition from getting into their offense. That can NOT be overstated. He knows what they are attempting to do and disrupts it. That is why he is so efffective in the defensive scheme. Hence, defensive player of the year!

Brutus's picture

But I thought we didn't like Craft because he doesn't score. That was the rap from at least half the people commenting on this site after the Michigan loss. I'm confused by this sudden change in attitude. It's almost as if our fans are fickle or something.

OHinKS's picture

My favorite moment of the entire Syracuse game was after Craft fouled out. He was standing next to Thad and was coaching and directing the entire team coming into the timeout. Thad just stood there and smirked, he had nothing to add. Coach 'em up, AC!!!

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

Craft has been my favorite player since the first time i saw him play. It amazes me the way that if he wants to score...he can score. when it gets to next season, i see Craft being a serious scorer while still playing the same role he currently does. He hits the shot when it is important and i've never seen a guy his size be able to somehow finish every drive with at least the bucket and a lot of times +1. Kid is a work of art.

 

ps. definitely agree on the t-shirt..would be a huge hit

 

pps. tattoos can be done right..period

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

Miller's picture

^ + 1,000,000

I don't see how anyone can NOT like Aaron Craft, and I agree -- I see him stretching his game and becoming a solid (probably not spectacular, but solid) scoring threat. We had so many scoring weapons last year, I'm confident it was a conscious decision for him to focus on defense and moving the ball to his teammates -- but this year, he has been far more willing to drive the lane or take an outside shot when it's been needed, or when someone has peeled off to help-D someone else instread of keeping him honest.

Between that and the way he is running this team on the court, I don't know if the BBall team does the whole "captain" thing, but if they do, you're looking at him -- that kid is the real deal.

Doc's picture

To my very amateur eyes, it looks like AC has a hitch in his shooting motion.  Both on jumpshots and free throws.  I hope Jent works on this over the summer.  I think Craft could be a decent scorer next year if he does.

"Say my name."

Mr. Slick's picture

I think he often releases the ball too late (on his way down) when shooting 3s.  I don't notice it when he shoots inside the arc though.  This is usually a sign of a player not 100% sure they are going to/should be shooting the shot in the first place. 

Jack Fu's picture

Thad Matta's offensive plan against Syracuse was to respectfully decline their 2-3 zone defense's invitation to hoist distant threes in favor of squeezing the ball into the high post, goading the Orange defenders to collapse before moving it inside to what should have been Ohio State's two-time All America big man for a high-percentage finish.

Could have been condensed into, "Thad Matta's offensive plan against Syracuse was to run a basic zone offense." I would prefer that we have two guys alternatingly flashing to the high post then dropping back, rather than have DeShaun just stand at the free throw line and rotate his body so that he was facing whoever happened to have the ball at that particular time. But hey, that was the best zone offense we've run in the Thad era, so I will look this particular gift horse in the mouth no further.

Craft is awesome, good post, and go Bucks.

RedStorm45's picture

After having seen replays, I'm not convinced of what he said after "dunk that..."  I believe Boals or somebody cuts in front of him.

JakeBuckeye's picture

If you rewatch it in HD and not shotty Youtube quality, its clear that he says M'Fer.

osubuckeye4life's picture

Craft badger don't care!