Today's profile will be about my sleeper pick for most important player in this recruiting class, Mr. Aaron Craft. For those of you who don't know, Aaron Craft is a 6'2", 190 pound point guard out of Findaly, OH. Yes, that is correct, I said point guard. And that is exactly what has me so excited about seeing him play. Ohio State has not had a true point guard since the days of Jamar Butler (no, P.J. Hill doesn't count). Rumors had Lenzelle Smith ahead of Craft at the point, but Smith is suffering from a wrist injury, and may miss the start of the season. While that is unfortunate, Smith is described as a combo guard, and Craft a true point guard.
As I said, it has been some time since a true point guard has graced the floors of Value City Arena. Not to take anything at all away from Evan Turner. The man was vital to the success of the team last year (and the year before), but even the most biased Buckeye fan has to admit that at times ball-handling was not his strength. One must wonder if having a player that could have brought the ball up the floor and let Turner roam free would have made the offense more explosive. A local professional team, once led by a traitorous, cowardly quitter recently suffered the same problem; The most talented offensive player on the court, the one you want to always be able to pass it to in order to get out of trouble, already had the ball in his hand 90% of the time.
Turner's biggest strength, in my opinion, was his ability to drive past whoever was guarding him, collapse the defense, and pass to an open or cutting teammate. The problem with this (and I know I am nit-picking) is that you had the best player on your team giving up the ball. Now, let your minds wander, and envision what it would be like to have a pure passer/distributor handling the ball, with Deibler, Buford, Lighty, and Sullinger roaming the court. This allows the most talented player (be it Sully or Buford or whoever you feel it is) to be given the ball instead of giving it up. Follow?
Anyway, so I love point guards. Aaron averaged 26.7 points, 7.7 boards, and 6.5 assists per game his senior year at Liberty Benton, connecting on 43% of his three point attempts and 85% of his free throws. He also played quarterback and free safety for the football team (basketball translation: Court Vision). His ESPN recruiting write up praises not only his passing skills, but his on the ball defense as well. His stats seem to back that up, as he recorded 3.2 steals per game. Class valedictorian, he originally committed to Tennessee. A picture of him and two other recruits at Bruce Pearls house when Craft was a junior was a major piece of incriminating evidence in the ongoing NCAA investigation into that program (You will get no sympathy from me, Bruce Pearl!).
To further drill home how important having a pure distributor is, especially in the NCAA Tournament, let's look some previous Tourny Champs. Last season, Duke had Jon Scheyer. Scheyer was not the best player on the team, but he played one position: point guard. A four year starter, he was a competent scorer and outside shooter who had an Assist to Turnover ratio greater than 3.0 his senior year. Before that, North Carolina won with Ty Lawson at the helm. Anyone care to argue Ty Lawson was not an exceptional college point guard? Didn't think so. Year before that, Kansas had Mario Chalmers, and their opponent, Memphis, had Derrick Rose. I know that all those teams had a lot of other talent, but there are always teams that have loads of talent and a lot of different positions (see: Ohio State, last season). The team that goes all the way and wins the Championship, however, always has a solid, pure point guard running the show.
Looking for a video on Aaron Craft? Look no further: we've got you covered. The video is not so much a highlight video, but listen to him give his interview around the 0:40 mark. Is it wrong to be this excited about a guy who could either be a starter or be the 3rd man off the bench? Either way, with every player profile I write, I get more excited for the havoc this team is about to rain down on the rest of the Big Ten. As always, your questions and comments are greatly appreciated. Go Buckeyes.