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Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. winding down careers for Ohio State men’s basketball

March 5, 2014

rogers.746@osu.edu
Senior guards Aaron Craft (4) and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (32) look on during a game against Iowa Jan. 12 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 84-74. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Senior guards Lenzelle Smith Jr. (32) and Aaron Craft (4) look on during a game against Iowa Jan. 12 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 84-74.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

A class of six, whittled down to just two stalwarts.

Ohio State’s 2010 basketball recruiting class was one for the ages — six players ranked in the Rivals.com top 150, including three in the top 50.

Five-star recruits Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas left OSU early to play in the pros, Jordan Sibert and J.D. Weatherspoon transferred to join Dayton and Toledo, respectively, leaving just Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr.

Now the senior guards are preparing for their final home game Sunday, where the Buckeyes are slated to take on No. 22 Michigan State to close out the regular season as two of the most successful players in program history.

At this point in their four-year careers at OSU, the two seniors have helped the team compile a 116-27 record.

The pair reached their 100th win at OSU in a 99-64 win Nov. 29 against North Florida, after only 119 games played — faster than any class in program history — something coach Thad Matta said was an incredible achievement.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder. Today is their 100th win at Ohio State,” Matta said after the North Florida game. “They’re the second-fastest in college basketball to get there … If you stop and think about how quick they got there, in 119 games, 100 wins. It’s amazing and I’ve never been prouder of two guys.”

Craft has also tied the Big Ten all-time steals record with former Illinois guard Bruce Douglas, tallying 324 over his career.

But despite the amount of success over the four-year period, this season has been harder for the Buckeyes.

After being ranked in the top 25 every week since coming to college, Craft and Smith Jr. saw OSU fall out of the rankings Feb. 3 on the heels of a January during which Buckeyes lost five of seven games played.

The Buckeyes are currently projected to get a mid-range seed in the NCAA Tournament, after being seeded no lower than a No. 2 in each of the past three seasons.

Smith Jr. said after the loss against Indiana that he still thinks OSU can compete with anyone.

“We’re a great team when we come to execute and when we’re on top of our game,” Smith Jr. said. “I said we can beat any team in the country, and I’m going to stick by that … I should be happy with what we should produce at the end of the season.”

No matter how far the Buckeyes do advance in the NCAA Tournament this season, decisions have to be made about the future once the year is over.

“Well I’m on pace to graduate after this semester … And then after that it’s a whirlwind of things,” Craft said Feb. 21. “There’s a lot of opportunities that could happen and a lot of scenarios. I’ve thought about it a lot and whatever happens, I’m going to be excited about it. Whether it’s something with basketball or my education continues, it doesn’t matter, just hopefully I’m smart enough to choose the right one and when the dust settles at the end of the year and we have some time to sit down and really reflect on what’s ahead of us, then we’ll make a decision.”

Craft said getting through the last four years balancing everything has been tough, but he has been helped through by the people in his life.

“A couple of the biggest things are the people I’ve been surrounded myself with and that have surrounded me,” Craft said. “Whether it’s my family or people that I’ve lived with. It’s really tough to go through things alone … My roommates have always been there, before even all you guys knew about them. They were there and they haven’t changed, which is huge for me. Just being able to step back and get away from basketball and get away from school has been tremendous.”

Tipoff for Craft and Smith Jr.’s final game at the Schottenstein Center is scheduled for Sunday at 4:30 p.m.


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  1. Rande Frantz says:

    I have watched PROUDLY for Aaron’s entire career at OSU, as a former findlay Ohio resident and a lover of OSU basketball! Whatever you do in the future, Aaron, you will be successful. Congratulations to you and to your parents who should be beaming with pride. We’ll follow your career wherever you go. What a great example to all young men everywhere!

  2. Stephan Conaway says:

    Watching both of you play for the past four years has been a great experience.

    Lenzelle: you wear my high school number. You have been very special to all of us.

    Aaron: you heartily deserve the kudos you have received.

    Thank you both and God Bless!

  3. Doug Castle says:

    I worked for several years as an academic encouraged for OSU football and encountered Aaron frequently on campus. I was always impressed with this young man. Intelligent, humble and talented. Great representative of OSU. Best of luck in all future enfeebled

  4. Judy says:

    Hi Aaron,

    It was so inspiring to read how God is at the center of your life. I know you trust and lean on Him in everything you do. I started watching Ohio State basketball, four years ago, while going through chemo for breast cancer. You guys really helped me during this time. By the grace of God, I celebrate ed my four year anniversary on December 23. I have watched you ever since. Praying for you in all that you do.

    Always a Buckeye,
    Judy

  5. Larry says:

    Congratulations to Aaron and Lenzelle on their outstanding team and indidual achievements. Thanks so much for all you have done for OSU!

  6. woody14rules says:

    Best wishes in your future to two of the classiest hard working players that have ever played for Ohio State. A very large void will be left in your absence.

  7. 1ofbestever#4 says:

    Theses Four years have passed by so fast. Almost too fast. I hope all the Buckeye fans appreciate what you have both done in your four years here. Enjoy today as we cheer you out on your last home game. We’ll blow the roof off of the Schott with cheers and the tears will fall on this emotional day. Give it your all and BEAT MSU

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