New Orleans It’s a well known fact that Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft is the glue that holds the Buckeyes together, the motor that makes his team go, the tough-as-nails, lead-by-intensity player who would do anything to help his team win.
What’s not as widely known is that Craft also is an up-and-coming college basketball coach.
Earlier this year, while the Buckeyes were in the middle of their run to the Final Four — they’ll face Kansas University at 7:49 tonight in the second semifinal at the Superdome — Craft spent some of what little down time he had as the de facto head coach for the Ohio State intramural team known as “Turning Point.”
The team, which is sponsored by former Ohio State standout and current Philadelphia 76er Evan Turner, is made up of nine OSU team managers. Having Craft pace the sideline during the team’s run to the quarterfinals was equal parts exciting and hilarious.
“He’s got the clipboard, he’s on the sidelines. He really gets into ‘coaching’ us,” said third-year manager Lee Miller, using his hands to make the quotation gesture. “We really don’t listen that well, though.”
Although Craft did not have the luxury of spending as much time preparing for Turning Point games as he did for his own, that did not stop him from trying. In addition to imploring his players to run a few sets, the 6-foot-2 sophomore from Findlay, Ohio, spent time studying the squad’s opponents as well.
“He used to give us the scouting report on the other teams based on what he saw on the other end of the court during the three minutes of warm-up time,” third-year manager Weston Strayer said. “He’d go by things like nice shoes, the arm sleeve … if a player had those, Aaron figured they were pretty good and we geared our game plan around stopping them.”
After winning the intramural championship in 2011 — with Craft occupying a less prominent position on the team’s coaching staff — things did not go quite so well for Turning Point in 2012. It reached the quarterfinals, but lost before reaching the school’s intramural version of the Final Four.
“We didn’t make it all the way this year,” Craft said. “But it was still a good year.”
Asked if his trouble adjusting to the role of top dog may have cost Turning Point a shot at defending its title, Craft said it simply was not meant to be.
“I was more of a manager last year, and I stepped it up to head coach this year,” he said. “I thought that was a pretty solid upgrade. I was ready for it. I was biting at the bit. I had the board in my hand. I was ready to go.”
Like his coach, Ohio State’s Thad Matta, Craft tried to utilize every trick in the book to give Turning Point an advantage.
“He definitely liked to give the refs a hard time,” fourth-year manager Wes Hesterman said. “I think he thought he could get us a few calls.”
The funny part about Craft’s time spent in charge of Turning Point, according to third-year Buckeyes manager Patrick Ford, was that, “People usually mistake him for a team manager.”
Added fourth-year manager Tim Daniels: “In fact, it happened today.”
When the intramural season ended, Craft had more time to focus on guiding Ohio State’s real hoops squad to New Orleans. Now that he’s here, he hopes he can make amends for Turning Point’s loss in the quarterfinals.
“It’s just fun seeing those guys outside of practice,” Craft said. “They’re there for us, and I’m just glad that we can be there for them, mess around and keep it fun.”