Arizona basketball: Craft - Ohio State's Tebow - accepts 'annoying' label

OSU's Aaron Craft was trending on Facebook last weekend - and not necessarily in the good way.


LOS ANGELES - Aaron Craft's teammate showed him a Tweet the other day.

"I believe it said I would kick Chuck Norris' butt," the Ohio State point guard said, "and then he would shave his head to look more like me."

The Cult of Craft was in full bloom Wednesday at Staples Center, as Ohio State prepared for today's Sweet 16 matchup against the Arizona Wildcats.

Four days ago, the junior waved off his All-America teammate, Deshaun Thomas, and hit a game-winning three-pointer in the final second against Iowa State.

"I think knowing Deshaun was going to be a little angry if I didn't make it probably helped it go in a little more," Craft said with a smirk.

When the Buckeyes junior returned home from the game, he spent his time studying for an organic chemistry test.

He's perhaps the nation's best on-ball defender, and also a high-level student. Last year, he became the first OSU player in 44 years to be named a first-team Academic All-American. He was the val-edictorian of his high school class.

He once did a Rubik's cube, on camera, in a little over a minute.

Craft wears a "WWJD" wristband and has dated the same girl for four years.

Which, of course, brings the comparison, which UA coach Sean Miller made Monday, to NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.

Miller said Craft's personality and will drove his team, the way the quarterback's did at Florida.

"If I had half the success that he (Tebow) had, that would be great," Craft said. "He's an even better person."

Craft's high school best friend first pointed out the similarities between the two years ago, encouraging the guard to read Tebow's book his freshman year.

"He's like, 'You guys are almost the same person,'" Craft said.

Craft and Tebow share something else: Those outside their fan bases, on the whole, can't stand them.

Facebook said Craft's name was mentioned five times more than any other college basketball player this past weekend.

It wasn't all from gushing Buckeyes fans.

"I know there are probably a couple people you could talk to back home that would say I'm pretty annoying outside the basketball floor," Craft said. "But I think the way I play, I hope that's the way I'm viewed.

"That's what I try to do to other people."

He averages 2.12 steals, No. 33 in the country. He swipes the ball on almost 4 percent of all possessions.

"When you're a defender, if someone calls you annoying, that's the biggest compliment you can ever have," said UA guard Nick Johnson.

Johnson figures to defend Craft today, though the OSU junior will likely guard UA point guard Mark Lyons.

"I can see how he frustrates other point guards a little bit, because a lot of point guards like to force a lot of things," Thomas said. "Especially scoring point guards trying to get their shots off - and Aaron gets into them."

Lyons fits that description.

"He plays hard," Lyons said. "He's always trying to gamble, and it pays off for him.

"He's a smart defender, and he's aggressive at the same time. That's a good combination.

"I'm just trying to win a game. I don't care who guards me."

On offense, Lyons said Craft, who averages 10 points and 4.7 assists, won't "go out there and lay 50 points on us," but he will run the team's offense well.

Lyons said the Wildcats must prevent him from driving into the key and then passing to teammates.

"Don't let him get in the lane and make everybody else on his team better," Lyons said. "That's one of the things he's really good at - is making everybody else look better."

The Wildcats did their best Craft impression this week, having Johnson chase redshirting point guard T.J. McConnell, who patterns his game after the Findlay, Ohio, native.

"He does look similar to him, but his passing ability, the way he runs through passes," Johnson said. "He was actually pretty excited.

"He was Aaron Craft."

Someone call Chuck Norris.

"They can think as bad as they want about me," Craft said, "as long as they're not thinking about what they should be doing."

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at or 573-4145. On Twitter @PatrickFinley