Brother’s Deployment Puts Elite Opportunity in Perspective for Craft
By Brandon Castel
BOSTON — Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft has become famous in the world of college basketball for his defense, but he would be the first to admit it’s nothing compared to the kind of defense his brother is about to play.
Photo by Jim Davidson
While Craft and his OSU teammates are preparing for their Elite Eight matchup with Syracuse Saturday night at TD Garden in downtown Boston, Aaron’s older brother, Brandon, is on his way to the other side of the world.
That’s where he will put his training to use, not as a basketball player, but as a defender of freedom.
“We have an opportunity like this to play in the Elite Eight, but it gives you perspective on some things,” Ohio State's sophomore point guard said Friday afternoon.
“We fight for a basketball game but he's fighting for something bigger than all of us.”
Brandon Craft, 22, is a member of the United State Army. On the same day his younger brother, Aaron, plays in the biggest game of his life, Brandon will make the biggest trip of his—from Washington state, where he is currently stationed, all the way across the world to the country of Afghanistan, where the United States still maintains a military presence following the attacks on 9/11.
“Obviously, I'm going to worry a little bit, but he would be the first one to tell you that you shouldn't worry,” Aaron Craft said.
“He's been trained and that's the path he chose. He wants me to focus on basketball as much as possible and continue on the path I'm going through.”
The Craft’s have known this day might come ever since Brandon enlisted in the Army as an infantryman last year. He began his basic training on the same day that Aaron arrived as a freshman at Ohio State.
Brandon was originally expected to be deployed overseas weeks ago, but a knee injury suffered during training delayed his deployment until this week. That allowed him to watch his younger brother lead the Buckeyes to an 81-66 victory over Cincinnati in the Sweet 16.
“I talked to him last night and a little but this morning, because he usually doesn't get to watch the games, but he got to watch the one yesterday,” Aaron said.
“That was cool. I'll probably talk to him again sometime today.”
Craft said his brother joked with him about his poor free throw shooting against the Bearcats (he was just 6 of 10 from the stripe on Thursday), but also said that the gravity of the situation is starting to set in for him.
“It has become a little more real and a little more eye-opening every day since he enlisted,” Craft said.
Considering the toughness Craft displays on the court, and his intelligence in the classroom, the fact he has a brother in the military should come as a surprise to no one.
Their little sister, Caitlin Craft, is a star basketball player at Liberty-Benton High School, where she was named Ohio's Division III player of the year, averaging 21.4 points, 6.7 rebounds as a senior.
Caitlin will join her brother Aaron at Ohio State next year, where she will play for OSU women’s basketball coach Jim Foster, but they did not get all of the athletic genes in the family.
Like Aaron, Brandon Craft was a football player in high school, and even played linebacker at the University of Findlay before a knee injury ended his career. In fact, it was Brandon and his friends who inspired Aaron to become the defensive player he is today.
“I couldn’t really score because he was bigger than me, but I could frustrate him if I was playing defense,” Craft said.
“That kind of is what I hung my hat on, and it carried over.”
Today, Craft is still hanging his hat on defense, and the Buckeyes are hanging their hat on him as they try to get back to the Final Four for just the second time in Thad Matta’s tenure in Columbus.
Brandon may not be able to watch the game for himself, but Aaron knows he will be on his brother’s mind the entire time.
“He's a proud brother,” Aaron Craft said.
“He's always there to lighten the mood. But when it comes down to it he can get serious and I know he's enjoying it a lot and I was happy he got to watch the game yesterday…
“He'll stay in my prayers.”
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