Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Aaron Craft: The Myth of Genius

Considering how easy it is, I’m fairly impressed at how few sportswriters have resorted to a play on his surname to describe Aaron Craft. The lack of “Craft-y” puns*, however, does not make up for journalists’ overreliance on the “coach’s son” narrative to describe the Ohio State sophomore. A cursory reading of the literature available on Craft would leave one with the impression of him as some sort of basketball genius – Archimedes in Adidas or Newton in Nikes.**

*You have no idea how hard it was to avoid falling into this trap, too. In fact, my (three) working titles were all some play on the dude’s last name. It’s not that I didn’t realize the irony – it was just soooo easy.
**Fibonacci in Filas? Plato in Pumas? Riemann in Reeboks? Cauchy in Converse?!

To be sure, Craft is a good player. He runs the Buckeye offense effectively, averaging nearly five assists per game. Scouts and analysts also praise his defense and his stats bear that out as well – Craft led the Big Ten* in steals this year.

*Am I actually supposed to write B1G?

Nevertheless, that doesn’t make him smart. That pesky defense often leads to bad fouls (see OSU’s win vs Syracuse in this year's tournament) and relegates Craft to standing at Thad Matta’s side for long period of time. Not sitting on the bench mind you, but literally at the coach’s heel, barking orders to his teammates. Many choose to take this as further evidence of Craft’s basketball IQ. I just think it’s annoying.

Also, for a coach’s son, he doesn’t know the rules very well. On Saturday against Kansas, he cost OSU whatever small chance it had at a tie when he committed a lane violate on his second free throw with two seconds remaining. He did this by crashing the boards as soon as the ball left his hand. That’s totally fine in the NBA, but in college, player must wait until the ball touches the rim to enter the lane. Craft was whistled and Kansas got the ball to secure its two point victory.

Now that by itself is no sin. There have been plenty of other players, some much more talented than Craft who have wilted under the bright lights of the March. Chris Webber was Naismith player of the year his sophomore season,* but is best remembered for calling a timeout in the NCAA championship game when his team had none. Fred Brown did something even worse. The only difference is that none of those players were ceaselessly praised for their hardwood savvy.

*According to the NCAA, that technically didn’t happen. Can they sanction a grad student?

There’s no doubt that Craft plays hard and is an asset to his team, but it’s also pretty clear that he isn’t as smart as people like to believe he is.

And yes, I did have OSU winning the tournament. No, I’m not bitter about it at all. Why do you ask?


Keep it civil.