Craft Not Rushing Back from Ankle Surgery
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Aaron Craft was moving around well for someone who had his foot in a cast just four days earlier.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ohio State’s junior point guard recently underwent off-season surgery for his injured left ankle, but Craft was walking under his own power at the Ohio Homecoming “Battle for Ohio” basketball game at St. John Arena on Saturday.
After helping the Buckeyes reach the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament in March, Craft wasn’t sure he wanted to have the surgery—despite experiencing what OSU head coach Thad Matta called “excruciating pain.”
“It didn’t bother me a ton,” Craft said nonchalantly Saturday.
“I didn't really feel like (surgery) was extremely necessary, but as the spring went on it just felt weak and the doctors really pushed for it. It was the best thing to do and we had time to do it, so I decided to get it done.”
Craft finally had the procedure back on June 18, and he spent more than two weeks on crutches with his foot in a cast. The rest of his Ohio State teammates have been playing in open gym this summer, working on their games, but Craft isn’t going to rush himself to get back on the court.
“I am just trying to be patient enough and do everything I can and not take it too fast,” he said.
“It will be good once we get done with it, but I just don't want to rush back and be out longer than I need to be.”
The 2012-13 basketball season doesn’t tip off until November. The Buckeyes will officially start practice some time in October. That gives Craft plenty of time to get himself healthy before anything truly meaningful is taking place on the court at Value City Arena, but he is the type of player who takes every day as an opportunity to get better.
“It is frustrating,” Craft admitted.
“It’s the first time I’ve really ever had to deal (with an injury). I just miss being out there with all the guys and all the teammates, but I am just trying to understand that when the season comes, I’ll be ready and hopefully I’ll be better than where I was last year.”
With a young team coming back, Craft’s main priority this summer was to be a leader for guys like Amir Williams, Shannon Scott, LaQuinton Ross and rookie Amedeo Della Valle. That’s something Craft can still do when he’s not on the court, but having him out there changes the dynamic for the Buckeyes.
At least that’s what his teammates say.
“He changes the outcome of practice, he changes the outcome of games, he changes the outcome of our team outlook in general,” senior forward Evan Ravenel said.
“Aaron Craft is our leader and we follow Aaron’s lead. His energy, and his positivity, we follow it.”
With Craft sidelined, Ravenel has really taken a step forward as one of the veteran leaders on the team. Along with Craft, forward Deshaun Thomas and guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr. are both returning starters for the Buckeyes this season, but Matta and his staff must replace two key scorers in Jared Sullinger and William Buford.
That doesn’t mean the Buckeyes are expecting a huge drop-off from last season, not with Craft and Thomas back in the scarlet and gray.
“Having someone like Aaron, that puts any team in top 10 position,” Ravenel said.
“He’s a one-of-a-kind point guard. He hustles on defense and he’s working a little bit more on his offensive game. I think he’s the best point guard in the country.”
As the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten, Craft doesn’t have to be at every workout, but he is, despite the fact he can’t be on the court with his teammates.
“He can’t show us physically what he can do because he’s out, but he’s still there every day grinding,” Ravenel added.
“He’s still in there cheering us on. That’s just what Aaron does.”
With the cast off, the next step for Craft is jogging. He starts that Monday, but still doesn’t know exactly when he will be back on the court—“there isn’t a big timetable yet,” he said.
Craft isn’t about to rush things. Not with so much time before the season—and so much on the line.
“It all depends on how things go,” he said.
“I am going to start jogging soon and see how it starts feeling. It doesn't hurt a ton—it just feels uncomfortable. My muscle is smaller, so we’re just trying to get everything back to how it was supposed to be.”
Knowing Craft, it won’t take as long as he might think.
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