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The drill has an innocuous name: Lane Slides. Players straddle one side of the foul lane and then slide furiously back and forth across the 12-foot stretch in 30-second bursts while maintaining the fundamental defensive posture and active hands. It's a drill that John Craft loved running for his team when he was coaching at Fostoria (Ohio) Junior High from 2003 to '06. And there was one modification he would use that pushed the drill from challenging to punishing: Lane Slides with Bricks, in which players hold taped-up fireplace bricks in their outstretched hands, palms down to make it tougher, to ensure they don't let their arms hang.
Craft's son Aaron, who would come to his dad's practices every day when he was in elementary school, loved doing Lane Slides with Bricks. "Aaron chose to be there," says John Craft, 49. "He just wasn't a TV-and-computer type of kid."
There's no shortage of reasons why Ohio State reached its 10th Final Four last Saturday with a 77--70 victory over Syracuse at Boston's TD Garden. There were 6'9" sophomore forward Jared Sullinger's 15 second-half points. There were sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr.'s three three-point baskets in the second half, bailing out a stagnant offense after taking three stitches—without novocaine—over his right eye early in the game. ("I'm surprised people in the arena didn't hear me screaming in the locker room," Smith said.)
But as always, there were Aaron Craft's feet, hands and head. The 6'2" sophomore point guard continually interrupted the Orange's offensive flow, directing his Syracuse counterpart, senior Scoop Jardine, away from ball screens and into less dangerous areas in the open floor. "The disruption he causes with ball pressure makes everybody else's job easier," says Ohio State assistant Jeff Boals.
Craft's all-out approach was deepened not just in his father's practices but also in bloody one-on-one games with his older brother, Brandon, now 23 and a U.S. Army infantry sergeant whom the Craft family said deployed to Afghanistan last Saturday, the day Aaron played Syracuse in the East Regional final. Aaron followed his brother up the athletic ladder in their hometown of Findlay, and was the starting point guard and quarterback at Liberty-Benton High as a freshman. "We ran a spread in football," says Aaron. "It [was] a lot like being a point guard—leading the team, making decisions."
Craft committed to Tennessee in the summer of 2008, before his junior year in high school, but a picture taken on his unofficial visit to Knoxville with Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl and other recruits became part of the evidence that eventually led to Pearl's dismissal. A year later Craft committed to Ohio State. Now, he is the unquestioned leader of the Buckeyes.
After basketball Craft hopes to attend medical school. Meanwhile he's awaiting word on whether he has been admitted to Ohio State's exercise science program. "From what I hear," he says, "it's pretty competitive." So that part shouldn't be a problem.
SETH DAVIS'S PICKS