The Ohio State University prides itself on the people, the tradition and the excellence of its athletics programs. Buckeye traditions and the excellence need no introduction. But how well do we know the people? Fans know players by the awe-inspiring feats they perform. Mask Off takes a closer look at those individuals as human beings.
Aaron Craft was a leader on the basketball court for some of the best Ohio State teams in recent memory. During the 2011-2012 season, Craft ran point for a Final Four team that included Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas.
Known for his scrappiness and unmatched work ethic, Craft was a four-time Big Ten All-Defensive Team selection and two-time conference Defensive Player of the Year. Equally impressive off the court, Craft was a three-time first team Academic All-America and two-time Academic All-American of the Year.
Since graduating college, Craft has pursued his love of basketball with team around the world. Eleven Warriors spoke with Craft to discuss life since Ohio State and plans for the future.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
Can you give Buckeye Nation a quick update on what you’re up to these days?
Yep! I’m actually playing professional basketball in the country of Monaco, but we play domestically in the French league. We also play in international competition called the Champions League. The final four begins next week, and we’re a part of that. We’re excited for that.
What is your day-to-day routine?
Days are split up between days off and practice days. Practice days, we’ll lift in the morning, lift and shoot. That probably takes two hours, 10:30 to 12:30. Go home, and eat lunch.
Then you have the afternoon. For me, it depends on what I’m feeling. Usually, I’ll read or study some things because the inner nerd in me continues to live on. If it’s really nice outside, my wife and I may go on a walk or go to a beach near us to relax and be outside. Then we’ll have practice later on, at six at night. Come back. My wife is awesome. She always has dinner ready for us. We eat that, then we’ll sit down and watch a show or two on Netflix and head to bed.
"I’ve thought about coaching, but I would love to be a doctor or something in the medical profession. The combination of the skills required, the interactions you have with people and the ability to serve other people"
What are you reading these days?
I’m studying to take the MCAT. I’m still trying to keep my options open for when I’m done playing. To go back to med school, I need to take the MCAT. It’s a doozy of a test. There’s a lot to learn, but I’m excited about it. I think I’m going to try to take it this summer. That gives me a window to go back to school for a few years with that test.
Med school is still possibly in the plans?
Med school is still in the mix. There are so many things that could happen, but it’s always been a passion of mine – what I really thought I wanted to do outside of basketball. I’m still youngish, and I knew I would have the time to study with our free time here, so I’m going to keep my doors open.
If you could have any job in the world aside from playing basketball, what would you do?
I’ve thought about coaching, but I would love to be a doctor or something in the medical profession. The combination of the skills required, the interactions you have with people and the ability to serve other people – to help them live better lives – that combination of skills and benefits really appeals to me, and I think I have a skill set that would transfer well.
Who is your biggest role model?
Growing up, I think my Dad did a great job of not only instilling in me but showing me what great work ethic was. Really holding us to a high standard and not wanting to settle.
As I got older, there are two guys that come to mind.
Tom Rode is a guy that worked at Athletes in Action at Ohio State. I call him my life coach. I would meet with him once or twice a week, and we would go through the bible. What him and his wife are doing on campus, at Ohio State – the time and effort they pour into other peoples’ lives – he really helped me see what my life should be about. If I ended up like Tom when I was his age, I would be so content.
The other guy is another guy from athletes in action. His name is Morris McCausky. We call him Coach Mo for short. He’s the same as Tom: he’s going out of his way to help me grow into a man and help me see what’s really important in life. He’s one of the happiest, most joyful guys I’ve ever been around. If I could have a couple of those attributes when I’m older, I’d love to.
What is your best memory from Ohio State off the basketball court?
Oh shoot. My favorite memory – we reflect on this a lot when we talk to the guys on the team here because foreign players who have never been want to know what college is like. I always tell them two things.
The first thing for me was, my last two years of school, the people I lived with, the roommates I had. We had so much fun. We had Taco Thursday, which blew up way bigger than we ever anticipated. It was just great to come home to guys that you knew cared about you – who wanted to hold you accountable and pour into your life.
The second thing is, I just miss walking around campus. Walking to class and looking around and seeing – knowing that you’re part of Ohio State – it’s a great feeling. There’s so many amazing things going on there. To be a part of that, to be in the mix, to be around those people is a great feeling that I definitely miss.
What is your best basketball memory from Ohio State?
The Final Four was obviously amazing, but the biggest game that sticks out to me was my Sophomore year at Michigan State – the last regular season game of the year. We needed to win to win a share of the Big Ten title. We were on the road, it was Draymond Green’s senior night.
Down the stretch, we played great as a team. Everyone did their role. I made a shot, Jared did his thing, Deshaun played good defense, Lenzelle did a great job. Then, at the end of the game, William Buford ends up hitting a game winner with like a second on the clock.
Walking out of the stadium in complete quiet was awesome. Then going into the locker room and celebrating with coach and the players is one of my favorite memories.
What can you talk about for hours?
I like to think I’m a faithful guy. As I’ve grown, I’ve come to understand more about the Christian faith and the bible and God. I would love to get in conversations about that for hours and hours. That’s probably number one.
And number two, you know, especially on the team, we like to talk basketball. We like to talk LeBron, Kobe, MJ. We like to talk where our guys are going to go. Did you see the highlights last night? What can they do better?
You brought it up, so I’ll put you on the spot: who is the greatest of all-time?
Oh man… I still go MJ because he’s MJ, but I don’t get angry when people say LeBron because LeBron is just a freak. For me, he is the best player that I will see. He’s my generation’s player. I try to find ways to watch him because it is just greatness. He might get there eventually, but I’m still giving MJ the nod.
Is there anything else you want people to know?
It’s been an interesting ride since college. My wife and I have traveled around the world playing basketball, and we love it. But the one thing we always come back to is there’s always people from Ohio State everywhere. It’s amazing to be a part of that family, and we hope that continues.