On Monday afternoon, the Big Ten Conference announced its all-conference teams and individual player awards. To no surprise, Ohio State Buckeyes senior guard Aaron Craft was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year. While the individual award is all fine and well, Craft was tremendously disrespected by the conference’s coaches and media.
The media voted Craft to the second team. Even worse, the coaches voted him to the third team. The fact that Craft wasn’t voted to the conference’s first team is a travesty. After all the talk, hype and hoopla that surrounded him this year, demoting him to the third team is a sign of disrespect.
Statistically, I’ll admit that Craft wasn’t the conference’s strongest player. He averaged 9.5 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game. While Craft isn’t a flashy and glamorous scorer, he contributed in many other facets of the game that should have landed him on the first team.
This past weekend against Michigan State, Craft broke the conference’s all-time steals record with 328. Already, he owns the Buckeyes’ all-time assists record. On the season, he averages 2.4 steals per game and 4.6 assists per game. He makes the plays that won’t show up in the stat sheet. While he may not be the leading scorer, he does everything else as good as the next guy.
Craft is a born leader. He makes all the hustle plays and you see him at every timeout talking to his teammates keeping them mentally involved in the game. The emotional boost that he brings is unmatched by any other player in college basketball. Where other players lead on the stat sheet, Craft leads where his team needs it most — on the floor.
With just seconds left on clock in Ohio State’s victory over the Spartans, Michigan State was threatening to take the lead. Adreian Payne put up a three and the rebound looked to be bouncing right to his feet. In a classic Craft play, the senior dove across the floor in front of Payne’s feet to secure the ball. The play all but secured the upset victory.
Unfortunately, hustle doesn’t always translate into awards. In this case, it most certainly doesn’t. Rather than selecting heart and hustle, the voters went with flash and style. Craft had a much better season than being a third-team all-conference selection. It’s a shame that the voters denied of him his one and only first-team all-conference selection.