Craft Takes Home Top Scholar Honor

Ohio State held its annual Scholar-Athlete dinner Monday night, with the most prestigious award going to someone often described as one of the top student-athletes at the college level in Aaron Craft. The guard talks about ending his OSU time in style and how he's preparing for the next level.

A two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and the Big Ten career steals leader, Aaron Craft is used to receiving honors on the basketball court after four standout seasons at Ohio State.

Craft has also been a top performer in the classroom, as evidenced by his collection of Academic All-America and all-conference awards.

But the OSU star put both together on Monday night, capturing Ohio State's male version of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, the conference's most exclusive award which goes to the top senior scholar-athlete in each gender at each league school.

First awarded in 1915, the Medal of Honor was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence, and now the 2014 version belongs to both Craft and OSU rower Allison Elber.

"It really is a blessing to be in this position," he said. "It's impossible to pick one of us out of (the five finalists). If you look at what everyone has done, everyone is special, everyone has done something great. If I could have it my way, all five of us would get a piece, but I'm very blessed and honored to be here."

Craft made those remarks after Ohio State's annual Scholar-Athlete Dinner, which recognized 511 Buckeye student-athletes for maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Craft wasn't the only member of his household at the event, as his sister – women's basketball player Cait Craft – was recognized and noted @CRAFTroomies Greg Greve (baseball) and Logan Jones (golf) were also honored, with Jones even spotted doing homework at one point during the proceedings.

"These things, they last pretty long," Craft said with a laugh. "It's a great problem to have, having so many athletes here that it takes so long. He's a veteran. I saw him with his bookbag. I probably should have done that. I have a test later on."

In fact, Craft is finishing up his studies before turning on full-scale workouts before the June NBA draft. Craft expects to graduate at commencement May 4 and then will get to work as he tries to improve on his current standing, as many mock drafts see him as either a late second-round pick or an undrafted free agent.

"It's very up in the air until I graduate, really," he said. "After that, I can pick and choose things, but what I've realized going through and talking to people is how out of my control of a lot of stuff is. Right now, it's about trying to get better and enjoy the ride. Things will happen how they're supposed to."

Craft has signed with New York City-based agent Lance Young and could move to the Big Apple to work out before the draft, though he said those plans are not set in stone.

"It's a possibility," he said. "The agent that I signed with, his headquarter is in New York, and they have a couple of places they send guys to work out. It could be a good thing for me to get out of my comfort zone here and play basketball, but you never know. Like I said, the No. 1 priority is to graduate."

The national Defensive Player of the Year this season as chosen by the NABC, Craft finished his career as OSU's all-time leader in assists and steals. He also was a four-time Big Ten defensive team member and was an instrumental part of three teams that reached the Sweet 16, but the Findlay, Ohio, native yet again finds himself in a position of having to prove himself to make it to the next level.

Craft said he's ready to embrace that challenge.

"It's almost like recruiting a little bit," he said. "There are a lot of people who say you can't do a lot of stuff. It's just about you being in the gym and doing what you can. I'm excited for it. I'm definitely going to miss it. You work out alone and you lift alone. You miss out on the camaraderie aspect of it, but I'm excited to see what's next. A lot of it is out of my control, but I know I can control how hard I work."

A native of Brunswick, Ohio, Elber helped lead the rowing team to OSU's first-ever NCAA championship in a women's sport last year and was a four-time OSU Scholar-Athlete as well as a three-time Academic All-Big Ten choice and Big Ten Distinguished Scholar.

"It's the biggest honor," she said. "I actually can't believe it. It sounds silly to say I wasn't expected it, but I wasn't. To be compared to all these other great athletes, you never think of yourself that way until it happens to you, I guess."

A full list of awards given at the annual Scholar-Athlete Dinner can be found here.

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