Aaron Craft is the defensive player of the year in the Big Ten for the second time in three seasons, but that alone isn’t enough for coach Thad Matta as he watches the senior finish his rough-and-tumble Ohio State career.
“I’m going to be highly disappointed if he’s not the national defender of the year,” Matta said on his radio show last night. “Winning this in this league is a heck of an honor, but I’ve been saying it for three years now that he is the best defender in college basketball. Maybe I need to get a billboard or something because nobody ever listens to me. But hopefully that will be an honor he gets in April.”
Craft was among the players and coaches honored last night during the Big Ten’s annual awards show. Nik Stauskas of Michigan was voted player of the year and Noah Vonleh of Indiana the freshman of the year by coaches and media, and Tim Miles of Nebraska (coaches) and John Beilein of Michigan (media) split the coach of the year award.
Craft also was voted second-team all-Big Ten by the media and third-team by the coaches, and for the second straight year he was joined on the all-defensive team by teammate Shannon Scott. Another Ohio State player, LaQuinton Ross, made the coaches’ third team.
“My last year, it’s awesome,” Craft said.
He is the sixth Big Ten player to win the defensive award twice (Ken Johnson of Ohio State also did) and holds the Big Ten career record for steals with 328. He shared the record with another two-time winner, former Illinois guard Bruce Douglas, before adding four steals in the Buckeyes’ win over Michigan State on Sunday.
“I know I have to thank some people who didn’t stay for four years because if they would have, (the record) wouldn’t even be close to where I am right now,” Craft said in a likely reference to Mike Conley Jr., who had 87 steals in his only season with the Buckeyes in 2006-07.
Only two Big Ten players — Greg Oden of Ohio State in 2007 and Victor Oladipo of Indiana last year — have been named the national defensive player of the year since the National Association of Basketball Coaches first presented the award in 1987.
Craft, who was voted by the media to the all-Big Ten first team last season, did not repeat there. It ended a run of eight consecutive years in which Ohio State placed at least one player on the first team, equaling the second-longest streak in conference history. Indiana had at least one first-teamer for 11 years in a row beginning in 1979.
Stauskas was the only unanimous all-Big Ten selection by coaches and media, who agreed on the same five players for the first team. Besides Stauskas, they were Roy Devyn Marble of Iowa, Gary Harris of Michigan State, Terran Petteway of Nebraska and Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin.