Smith Sidelined, Craft Impressing Early

This year's Ohio State men's basketball team will have an Evan Turner-sized hole in the lineup. This summer, the Buckeyes are working to find his replacement at the point guard position and freshman Aaron Craft might have an advantage as another candidate for the spot is out for a while with injury. Updated at 4:30 p.m.

Ohio State's quest to replace Evan Turner at the point guard position just got a little more difficult.

Wednesday, senior guard Jon Diebler told reporters that freshman point guard candidate Lenzelle Smith had undergone wrist surgery Tuesday. Thursday, an OSU spokesperson confirmed that Smith will be out 3-6 months as a result of the surgery to repair a torn ligament.

A versatile athlete who could plug in at point guard, shooting guard or perhaps small forward for the Buckeyes, Smith had been tipped as one of two candidates to shoulder the burden left by Turner's departure. A three-star prospect as ranked by Scout.com, Smith arrived in Columbus ranked the No. 24 point guard prospect in the nation.

He first suffered the injury in May while bracing himself as he fell during a game of basketball, The (Columbus) Dispatch reported.

Nearly nine months after Smith issued a verbal commitment to the Buckeyes, he was joined by four-star prospect Aaron Craft. He checks in at No. 19 on Scout's list of point guards for the class of 2010.

Now with Smith watching open gym sessions from the sidelines, Craft has a chance to lay claim to the position.

"He can really play defense," senior guard Jon Diebler said of Craft. "If you ask anyone on the team or any of the older guys who come in and play, he can really play defense. I think his shot has come a long way. He can really shoot the basketball now."

Craft has already drawn an impressive comparison from junior guard William Buford.

"He's kind of like a Chris Kramer from Purdue," Buford said. "He's a real pest on defense. Fullcourt or halfcourt, he really gets into you and he'll make you uncomfortable when you have the ball."

A senior last season, Kramer was a two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year for the Boilermakers.

But asking a true freshman to almost exclusively handle the point might be asking a bit much. While OSU had Mike Conley running the point during the 2006-07 season, then-junior Jamar Butler had extensive experience at the position and was able to spell the freshman when necessary.

The question then is who could fill a similar role on this year's roster. Most of the guards on OSU's roster come from high school programs where they were accustomed to handling the ball for the majority of the game, but not many have much collegiate experience at the position.

When Turner suffered broken vertebrae in his back last season that cost him a month of game action, seniors P.J. Hill and Jeremie Simmons assumed most of the point guard responsibilities. But also included in the mix was David Lighty, then a junior.

Lighty helped bring the ball up the court at times in Turner's absence. Upon Turner's return, Diebler occasionally did so to help set up Turner in OSU's offense. In addition, Buford has been mentioned as a potential candidate to help out at the position as well.

Although Lighty is currently sidelined with a broken foot, Diebler said the senior has been continuously dribbling a basketball while watching workouts from a chair or exercise bike.

Likewise, Buford listed his ball-handling skills as one area in which he is most hoping to improve for the upcoming season.

Still nearly three months from the start of fall practice, Diebler said each of the three aforementioned players are preparing as if they will have to help out at the position.

"Obviously if we needed to I'm sure one of us would step up to fill that void but at the same time we have a lot of younger guys who are fully capable of running the point guard position," he said. "I think it's just a matter of how well they get acclimated to the college game. Obviously it's a big transition, but at the same time I know if we had to one of us would.

"I know coach is going to do what's best for the team, whether that be a freshman running point guard or one of us upperclassmen doing it."

Craft is getting a crash course in being an OSU point guard this summer. Among his responsibilities during open gym sessions has been guarding Conley.

"Aaron having the opportunity to guard him has really helped him out," Diebler said. "He can ask Dave, Will and I all the questions that he wants but none of us have really played a point guard position here at this level."


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