Tag Archives: Aaron Craft

Ohio sports holiday weekend rewind: LeBron, baseball, etc.

So, anything interesting happening in the world of Ohio sports today?

Yeah, I know it was a long holiday weekend and now there are some major rumblings that a huge homecoming could give folks even more to celebrate than America’s birthday, so how about we get all caught up on what happened while you were out watching fireworks and grilling, shall we?

The Heart of It All:

How could this be anything but the ever-moving free agency of one LeBron James, the best basketball player to come out of Ohio in the past 50 years and and probably ever?

Sam Amico at FoxSportsOhio.com did his best to round up the rumors and reports that emerged over the weekend while adding his own reporting, while Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports and Fox Sports 1 and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, experts on the NBA and LeBron, respectively, brought even more to the table this morning, painting a rosy picture for the Cavaliers’ outlook in bringing James back to the club he began his career playing for then backhanded on his way out the door four years ago.  Continue reading

Craft, Simon, Smith among Ohio State spring graduates

More than 10,000 people officially joined the ranks of Ohio State alumni over the weekend, a group that included more than 150 scholarship athletes.

John Simon

Out of the latter group, three names stood out above the rest: Aaron Craft, John Simon and Katie Smith. Two defensive standouts and the player who has scored more points as a pro basketball player than any other woman in the U.S.

(Should note Smith already received her undergrad degree a few years ago as part of OSU’s degree completion program.)

Read more: Craft, Simon, Smith among Ohio State spring graduates | FOX Sports on MSN.

The Agony and the Ecstasy, Or Watching 2012 Buckeye Basketball

This Ohio State team is scary in a lot of ways, and I mean that as a compliment and a criticism.

They can do almost everything, but it’s not always clear when they’ll do anything.

Some of the feelings that arise from watching this group of Buckeyes are no doubt a matter of perception, leftovers from a high preseason ranking and even the residual effect of last year’s excellent but disappointing team.

Nothing this squad has done has been in a vacuum. Expectations color every game. They made midseason losses to inferior talent from Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois seem intolerable but left room for an exhilarating comeback win at Michigan State to close the regular season and win the Big Ten title many thought they’d stroll to.

Ohio State can be misleading at both ends of the floor. Defensively they have very good numbers, but they also are prone to curious lapses. Length and athleticism sometimes allow them to overcome mistakes, but communication isn’t always perfect. Sometimes you wonder if they’ve ever heard of a boxout, but they have a lot of guys who can go out of their area to snag a board when they need it, too.

On the offensive end, they have a great low post scorer but no consistent outside shooter to form the classic inside-out game their offense is set up to be. Sure, they can hit threes, but it’s not a reliable part of the arsenal. That means they have to manufacture points despite not playing a system that is really set up to do that. Fortunately, they have a true hybrid scorer at the four position in Deshaun Thomas. A player once called the next LeBron James early in his Indiana high school career, Thomas sometimes gets lost in the talk about Jared Sullinger’s prodigious power inside and Aaron Craft’s pesky play on the perimeter, but he is a bona fide NBA prospect himself. Long-armed, quick-jumping and a little enigmatic, Thomas has a natural scoring touch inside 15 feet but plenty of range to step outside and hit from beyond the arc. When we talk about “glue guys”, we generally mean the ones who hold things together on the defensive end (where it should be noted Thomas has improved through the course of this season), but that’s what this guy has done of the Ohio State offense. He fills in the gaps, scoring from wherever and often whenever he is needed to get the Buckeyes over the top.

There’s something disconcerting about watching a team that does a lot of things well but doesn’t seem to do the same ones every night. Yet the former is really more important than the latter, especially at this time of year. It just tends to make things a little wilder along the way.

I think we’re also seeing the intermixing of talent and youth, two sometimes combustible partners. Last year’s team had already paid its dues. It was not only full of great shooters – including guys like Jon Diebler and David Lighty, who improved significantly through the course of their careers – but also guys who had been around the block and learned the importance of doing all the dirty work every night. That made it easy for Sullinger, Craft and occasionally Thomas to slide into defined roles as freshmen. All they had to do was a thing or two they naturally did well – score and rebound in the paint, smother an opposing guard or fill it up from wherever there’s an opening – and let the other guys worry about the hard stuff. This year has been much different for those guys with their names alone on the marquee, and it took a while for all of them to figure out how to adjust. There were some ugly moments that even now are tough to forget when projecting where this team will end up with two weekends of season left to play.

These Buckeyes are still not always aesthetically pleasing, but they’ve learned how to get the job done by whatever means necessary. How far will that take them? We won’t have to wait much longer to find out.

Syracuse and its vaunted 2-3 zone await in the regional final on Saturday. The Buckeyes and Orange will play for the right to go to the Final Four. Ohio State lacks the consistent three-point shooters to threaten such a defense in the most obvious way, but the Buckeyes have picked up ways to get inside and find openings that weren’t there earlier in the season.

And on top of that, for as much talk as there is about the times they don’t do everything they’re supposed to, there also remains the possibility someone – long lost senior William Buford, perhaps? – shows up with something added for one night and makes them that much more dangerous. It’s part of the beauty of sports, of March Madness in particular.

Let’s see what happens…

An Ohio State Leap Of Faith?

Maybe all Ohio State needed to right itself for a championship run was one more day in February.

In beating Northwestern 75-73 on Feb. 29, the Buckeyes fell short of fixing all that has ailed them for much of the Big Ten season, but they showed some signs of the team they were once thought to be.

Their biggest star, Jared Sullinger, not only came up with the game-winning shot but was the overall man of the match with 22 points and 18 rebounds. He was engaged on both ends of the floor, and his teammates were willing and eager to use his considerable gifts to the team’s advantage.

Four players scored in double figures, including 14 big points from point guard Aaron Craft. Not only was the ball finding Sullinger in places he could use it, Craft found himself open for a handful of spot-up threes and he took advantage four times. Craft seems to be looking for his shot a little more lately, something that could make the rest of the offense more dangerous if he is successful.

Not everything was all wine and roses, however. There were those 16 turnovers, a slew of which came down the stretch as an eight-point lead melted away completely. Craft made some questionable decisions, but he was smart enough to get the ball to Sullinger at the end, and he picked his spots well earlier in the game.

One still has to wonder where was William Buford as he scored only six points, but unlike some earlier performances he seemed into it throughout. His shot wasn’t falling, but I think it’s important for him to continue to look for it as a function of the offense. He added six rebounds and four assists with only one turnover, too, so there were some positives.

Northwestern shot 50 percent from the floor and hit 13 of 27 three-pointers, another familiar stat line from a couple of this team’s earlier defeats, but the degree of difficulty was considerable on a number of those looks. The Wildcats made more than a few shots under duress or from well beyond the three-point line, the type that leave you sometimes merely tipping your cap. That’s not the general feeling I’ve come away with in most of the previous outside shooting clinics we’ve seen against the Buckeyes.

This was not the type of performance that crowns a champion, but it could be a building block if the ball continues to move on offense and the defensive communication is strong.

It comes literally not a moment too soon as the regular season finale looms in East Lansing on Sunday, a game that looked like it would probably be just a formality as recently as two days ago but that now carries promise of a piece of the Big Ten championship that seemed like a gimme at the start of the season.

This team still needs to get tougher and smarter, but it showed some signs against a desperate, tournament-quality team on its home floor. There was probably more to take from this win than any of the blowout wins at home the Buckeyes have enjoyed. One wonders about the lapses that let leads slip away – as we saw against Wisconsin on Sunday in a then-crippling loss – but can still come away thinking there were signs they are starting to get what they need to do to be successful, to deliver on the promise that so many saw when they dominated Duke and downed Florida in the pre-conference schedule.

Michigan State could bludgeon all that hope away in 40 minutes or less on Sunday, but the Buckeyes have to be happy to be back in the game.

It is March, after all.