Pat Brennan / Sports editor
Ohio State basketball fans know Aaron Craft is smooth on the court and Jared Sullinger’s got game, but what about off the court and in their love lives? Is Craft the smooth-talking boyfriend who serenades his girl with Miley Cyrus tunes? Does Sullinger take his woman on romantic dates? And how do their girlfriends handle the female fans?
Amber Petersen, a second-year in medical dietetics, is Craft’s high school sweetheart and has been with him for more than three years.
“Actually, we dated in eighth grade … our first kiss was after a movie,” Petersen said.
DeAnn Smith is a fourth-year in sports and leisure studies and has been Sullinger’s girlfriend for eight months. She said their love started at MarketPlace.
“I tore my ACL playing rugby, and (Sullinger) always used to help me when I was on crutches at Younkin (Success Center),” Smith said. “But we didn’t officially meet until we were both at MarketPlace hanging out.”
Of all of Sullinger’s attributes, she said she loves the big kid inside the man who wears the No. 0 jersey.
“He’s humble, down to earth and goofy,” Smith said of Sullinger. “My favorite quality about him would definitely be his personality.”
Petersen said the same of Craft.
“I love his personality,” Peterson said. “He’s always positive and friendly, and a caring person.”
Sullinger said he has tunnel vision and can focus only on basketball, school and family, so being in a relationship isn’t as hard as he thought.
“She’s a wonderful girl and she makes me happy,” Sullinger said. “That’s all that matters.”
Craft said he appreciates honesty from someone other than a family member.
“She’s not afraid to tell me what I need to hear,” Craft said. “When I mess up, she’s going to tell me I messed up, and when I do something right, she’s there to tell me.”
But as happy as the couples are, Craft and Sullinger’s relationships aren’t immune to jealously issues.
“I would say (Sullinger) gets more jealous than I do,” Smith said. “It’s annoying sometimes but I know he makes time for me, and he shows he is dedicated to me.”
Petersen said Craft’s publicity took some getting used to.
“(His) being friendly is the worst and best thing about him,” Petersen said. “Other people around can think (Craft) is leading them on because he’s so friendly, but that’s what I also love most about him.”
Smith said a trip to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, was the best date the couple has been on, and Sullinger even won her a giant teddy bear.
“Although I had to ride a lot of rides by myself because he couldn’t fit, we still had a good time,” Smith said.
Petersen said she and Craft have had a lot of great dates throughout the years, but Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and a Zac Brown Band concert were her favorite. Craft said that lately the couple has picked up a new hobby.
“Recently, we have been cooking together,” Craft said. “Well, she’s doing most of the cooking, for dinner or breakfast. Her culinary skills have improved greatly.”
As far as the future, Craft and Peterson said they’re not worrying about it now.
“I mean, we’ve talked about the option of the NBA,” Peterson said. “I want him to finish school first, but we try not to think about it.”
Sullinger already passed up an opportunity to become a high draft pick in the NBA after last season and may have another tough decision to make this year. Regardless of the situation, Smith said she and Sullinger will talk about their future when the time is right.
“We’ll see where our relationship is, but I will support whatever he does,” Smith said.
For now, the couples are enjoying the basketball season. Both girlfriends shared insights about their Buckeye babes’ habits during games.
“I think it’s so funny when Aaron tries to pump up the crowd,” Peterson said. “It works, I just think it’s funny.
“And we still laugh about the Miley Cyrus video,” Peterson said in reference to Craft’s high-pitched rendition of “Party in the USA,” which he performed with other members of the 2010-11 OSU team.
Smith said that she and Sullinger sing to each other during games.
“When there’s a good song that comes on during timeouts, Jared will be singing. Watch for it,” Smith said.
As for Valentine’s Day, the team will be in Minnesota for a game, and Smith said she’d be surprised if Sullinger got her something for the holiday.
“With Jared, you never know,” Smith said. “I think I’ll get him something creative and dorky.”
Petersen said she plans to make Craft a dessert for the occasion.
“We actually said ‘no gifts this year,'” Peterson said. “But he’s probably going to get me flowers. He better!”