Craft Committed to Playing Professional Basketball

By Kyle Rowland on June 24, 2014 at 8:30a

The debate will end Thursday night. Well, maybe not. One debate will end, but another will rage on – possibly for years.

Aaron Craft and the NBA. Questions were asked throughout his college career. Did his skills translate? Could he be a defense-only player and succeed? Would he get drafted? The last of those three answers will come during Thursday’s NBA Draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

For the past month, Craft has endured poking, prodding, cross-country trips and even a venture north of the border, all amounting to intense job interviews. Craft’s worked out at the draft combine and a multi-team combine hosted by the Clippers, and individually for the Hawks, Jazz, Suns, 76ers, Mavericks, Raptors, Grizzlies and Celtics.

The polarization of Craft comes from his defense, lack of offense and gritty personality. Craft is the prototype “love him if he’s on your team, hate him if he plays against your team” player. He pestered Big Ten fanbases for four seasons, swiping basketballs at a record pace – 337 in all – and creating points off of turnovers.

But one-dimensional players don’t always have long stays in the NBA. That is, unless the one dimension is putting the basketball into the hoop. Craft didn’t do that at a high rate in college and almost certainly won’t in the pros. Still, his defensive prowess and leadership intangibles have many scouts uttering positive remarks about Craft.

“Aaron’s excelled at pretty much everything his whole life,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said. “On the court or off the court, he’s a competitor. That’s a good way to put it. He’s a winner. His defense stands out. His ability to run a team and get guys in better spots stands out. He’s in terrific shape. He tied our high [28] in the conditioning drill in the end of our workout. And he could have kept going for another three minutes if he wanted to.

“We place a value on winning. I think you look throughout his career, he was also a high school quarterback. I think he won a lot there as well. It’s what he’s done his whole life. He just wins games.”

The competitive fire that burns in Craft was first lit at a young age, before coming to a full glow when he was a quarterback and point guard at Findlay Liberty Benton. He won big in football and basketball and again in basketball at Ohio State – until last season. The Buckeyes’ 10 losses were the most Craft experienced in a career stretching to grade school.  

“I think I’m one of the more competitive guys out there,” he said in Phoenix. “I do whatever it takes to win – offensively or defensively. It’s also a lot of things behind the scenes that a lot people don’t see, whether it’s stuff in the offseason or things before or after practice. That’s just who I am. I want to make myself better and my team better.”

First, Craft must improve his own game before he gets the opportunity to help an entire roster. He’s not projected to be drafted, meaning he’ll be an undrafted free agent and then play in the summer league. Craft only averaged 10 points per game during one college season. His 46-percent field goal percentage and 33.3-percent three-point percentage, complete with a hitch, is the elephant in the room.

But that awkward motion has been eliminated, thanks to shooting guru Keith Veney. Distributing the ball, playing good defense and providing leadership are all qualities Craft brings to the table. Hitting open shots will be his biggest ally, though, if his shooting motion is corrected.

Craft’s elbow is now noticeably more upright when he releases the ball, whereas before it stuck out.

“It’s amazing how much work and time you can put in when you’re out of school and you have more time on your hands,” Craft said after a workout for the Jazz. “Obviously I’m not where I need to be, but I feel really comfortable with the improvement that I’ve made since the season’s been out. I’ve been shooting a lot, and I’m happy with the progress. Just got to continue to do it.”

Among those impressed was Jazz Vice President of Player Personnel Walt Perrin, who admitted he was surprised by how well Craft shot from midrange.

“He made it better than I thought he would, so he has been working on his jump shot,” Perrin said. “But he still has a ways to go. I had to remind him a couple times he had his foot on the line. I told him that’s the worst shot in NBA basketball.”

There’s been speculation that Craft might opt for medical school over carving out a career in Europe if the NBA dream doesn’t pan out. His agent, Lance Young, ended that discussion last week, saying Craft is committed to playing professional basketball regardless of the country or continent.

Helping Craft – at least he believes so – is the national exposure he experienced at Ohio State. Franchises saw what he presents to teams and his ability to deliver in tense moments. The workout process has offered similar circumstances.

“It’s just about being myself,” Craft said. “Not getting caught up in a ton of stuff about the things I don’t do well. It’s about being myself because that’s where I’m going to be the biggest asset. I come out and try to do everything I can and enjoy it.”

Enjoyment. Satisfaction. Delight. All three would describe Craft’s memorable college career with the Buckeyes. But could the three descriptors be used Thursday and years down the road when recounting Craft’s professional career?

It’s difficult to bet against him. 


Comments Show All Comments

Buckeye in the ATL's picture

Let him shadow Steve Nash for a month.

Buckeye in the ATL

+2 HS
Boxley's picture

I wish him well, he will always be a great Buckeye.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

+3 HS
rider1's picture

The headline Craft is Determined is redundant. 

+5 HS
yrro's picture

Given the number of 1st round draft picks he's shut down head to head, and his pretty decent assist to turnover ratio, you'd think teams could find a use for it.

+3 HS
Killer nuts's picture

Yup, here's his treatment of a certain lottery pick from north of the border


+7 HS
Buckeyevstheworld's picture

The NBA doesn't allow you to play defense like that.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

+2 HS
GABuckeye's picture

Agreed.  It's an offense-friendly league.  You gotta score points for the fans!

+1 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

The NBA would allow that, because he doesn't foul Stauskas. Watched that over and over again, and there's no contact until after Stauskas falls and loses the ball. Great D, no foul.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

+2 HS
d5k's picture

If it was 20 years ago and there weren't 15-20 international players who you can draft and leave in Europe for a couple years, Craft's chances of getting drafted would be much higher.

+1 HS
MassiveAttack's picture

Arron Craft is like that funny guy to the hot girl (being the NBA).  The hot girls all say they want a guy who is funny.  Well there are more funny  guys than good looking bad boys.  Yet the girls always pick the bad boy with looks, then spend all the time complaining about them.

The NBA claims they want good guys who play great defense, well here you are.

The Ohio State University - "Haters love us!"

+3 HS
thatlillefty's picture

trouble with the ladies?

+5 HS
YTOWNBUCKI's picture

I'd compare him to Rajon Rondo, who really doesn't have a very good jumper but plays at a million miles per hour at all times.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors

Go get your shine box, Gumar!

+1 HS
cdub4's picture

Rondo is an elite passer and rebounder for his size. He gets triple doubles in the NBA. I do not see the comparison at all.

Glad Craft is willing to play overseas. I have been thinking people are going overboard with the medical school thing. He is not ready to retire.

+1 HS
RedStorm45's picture

Rondo is a better driver/slasher.


I've been saying it for months - Eric Snow is his comparison.  Not a great shooter, but a defensive wizard and leader.  If he goes to a team where he's not expected to come in and knock down shots, he'll be ok.  He can provide great defense and can run an offense for 6-8 minutes at a time (what backups are expected to do a couple times each game).  Especially in the NBA where just about everybody but the Spurs run a ton of isolations, it won't be a big deal if he can only contribute a couple buckets here and there.

+3 HS
Buckeye in Illini country's picture

If they had room on their roster, Craft would be the perfect backup for Tony Parker in San Antonio.  Team oriented, unselfish with the basketball, decent passer, and tremendous defense.  If they keep Patty Mills, there is no such luck there.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

+1 HS
SilverBullet33's picture

Snow has been a guy Ive used as a case for Craft in the NBA. Great comparison in my opinion.  If you look at Snow's college numbers ,especially offensively, you see he never averaged more than 8 points a game, but his defense and basketballs IQ were off the charts.  Eric played a dozen years being a pest. Craft should get a job in the league, but I fear he will not. But let's be honest whatever he does, it will no doubt be awesome. 

+2 HS
Gametime's picture

Aaron Craft certainly has a chance to be a key contributor on a championship caliber team. He's that guy who gets the untimely steal, 50/50 ball, disrupts offenses, and draws charges. Every team needs guys like that.

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

+2 HS
OldColumbusTown's picture

I find it hard to believe he cannot help a lot of teams in the NBA.  However, it still takes someone willing to take that chance.  It's not the end of the world if he doesn't get drafted - it could even end up as a better situation since he could select a team that likes him and where he sees an opportunity to make the team.

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if Brad Stevens was the guy who went after Craft.  AC just seems to fit the mold of a Stevens-type of player, and while definitely not the same caliber or exactly same type of player as Rondo, I think he'd fit that system well as a backup option who can keep continuity on the floor when Rondo is out.  I'd definitely take him over Phil Pressey, who is smaller, not much of a shooter himself, and not much of a defender.

+2 HS
MikeTheBuckeye's picture

I wish he worked on his shot like he has been during his first 4 years instead of waiting till after he graduated. But if he gets drafted, who wants to bet he will end up Defensive POY at some point? 

OSUFlash's picture

At some point in the future his name will come up as the next head coach at Ohio State.


+2 HS
thatlillefty's picture

I think the world would be better off with Aaron going to medical school. But if he wants to play ball overseas, I wouldn't blame him.

otrain2416's picture

Unfortunately for Craft, defense is frowned upon in the NBA especially when you guarding the stars. 

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

buckeye4life050233's picture

~~OldColumbusTown you hit it spot on. I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up in Boston as the backup to Rondo.  Heck he might even try the Spurs on a UFA contract and they might stick him overseas for a couple years.  To me the Celtics would be a good fit and he could make that roster as the backup

+1 HS
hit_the_couch's picture

Hell, if he doesn't get drafted then try to play in Europe or Asia. They can make decent money and the cultural experience is a good thing.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

+1 HS
lwitters's picture

The front page tagline "Craft Determined" is about like saying "Water Wet".

+1 HS
MikeTheBuckeye's picture

Is Craft going to be on campus Thursday? Thad addressed the kids at his basketball camp saying he may be there for an opportunity to sign apparel and whatnot. It's the same day as the NBA draft so I'm somewhat doubtful. But it would be great to see him one last time before he turns pro (maybe).

TheTeam16's picture

As a current resident...I cannot imagine going to the NBA with the plan to someday return for a medical education. 

All I can say is good luck, you will need it.