To Aaron Craft,
Though your legend in many ways took on such a life of its own it became hard to discern the player against the caricature others had built up to tear down, your contributions won't soon be forgotten.
As a freshman, despite being just the first player off the bench, you led your team in assists and steals. That spring in the NCAA Tournament against George Mason, you had 15 assists in a single game. And although that team, a media darling who many thought might be best positioned to make a run to win at all, came up just short against Kentucky, you played 36 minutes of defense, holding future NBA lottery pick Brandon Knight to just 3-of-10 shooting (1-of-6 from 3).
Your sophomore season was the second best in Ohio State's modern era. Shooting 50 percent from the field, dishing out 4.6 assists per game, and recording 2.5 steals per contest, you led a group that would win a piece of their third straight Big Ten regular season championship. As a two seed in the East Region, you helped lead Ohio State past Loyola, past Gonzaga, past in-state rivals Cincinnati, and even over the No. 1-seeded Syracuse Orange en route to the Final Four. Though the Buckeyes came up just short against the Jayhawks in New Orleans, none of us will forget the 2011-12 season any time soon.
2013 might not have ended at the same heights as the year before, but it's just as unforgettable and every bit as near and dear to all Ohio State fans' hearts. That season you became the Buckeyes' all-time steals leader, despite having just played two years and change.
And that March, man, that March.
In the third round, against Iowa State, in a back-and-forth nail-biter, you could've cut the tension with a knife. And then you did this:
Your senior year was more victory lap than anything. Sure, there was a lot of talk (mostly of the negative variety), and yeah, the attrition and roster management which culminated in you being required to take on a disproportionate load relative to what you do best wasn't fair in many ways. But you never once complained and you never stopped doing what you did best.
When the smoke cleared and everything was said and done, you couldn't say the words "Aaron Craft" without the following:
- Two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year
- 2013 Big Ten Tournament MVP
- Three-time Academic All-American
- Six-time winner against Michigan
Though a lot of lazy jokes will be had at your expense, you as recently as a Michigan State game not even two weeks ago made a game-defining play. Every opposing guard and coach in the Big Ten will be celebrating your departure for the next chapter, and with good reason – you made sure absolutely nothing came easy for them.
Though you were a best-in-class defender, more than that, you were a great Buckeye, and a fantastic ambassador not just for your program, but the entire university.
You leave Ohio State in the top 15 in steals all-time. Not just for Ohio State, not just for the Big Ten, but for all of college basketball. Ever. And you depart the Buckeyes 119 wins richer, too.
For that, regardless of whatever's next, we have but one thing to say: