Mar 23, 2011, 2:05 PM EDT
Kentucky’s Brandon Knight and Ohio State’s Aaron Craft play the same position, but the freshmen hardly have the same roles.
Knight is the Wildcats’ leading scorer and most important player, responsible for running the offense, taking over games when needed and forcing the defense to focus on him so his teammates have scoring opportunities.
Craft plays on a team with more offensive options and more upperclassmen capable of carrying the load, which allows Craft to focus on defense and ball-handling.
But give ‘em both credit for the same thing: Smarts and dedication.
Knight attended an elite Florida high school, graduated with a 4.3 GPA and is sophomore in academic standing because of Advanced Placement courses. Craft was high school valedictorian and National Honor Society president.
If you think those smarts translate into on-court success, you’d be right.
“All the players I’ve coached, and I had guys that would live in the practice facility, literally, I’ve never seen a guy with this kid’s work ethic,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “His focus is on ‘where are my weak areas?’ And he goes after them.”
“The thing I love about Aaron is he’s as hard on himself as any kid I ever coached,” Matta told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “I’ve got great trust in him in knowing those are the type of things that drive him nuts.”
Knight puts up more impressive stats (points, rebounds and minutes), but Craft’s been killing it lately. Since Feb. 20, his assist-to-turnover ratio is 4.8. Maybe that’s why Craft usually gets the “heady” point guard label, while Knight’s seen as a surefire NBA guard. But their tempo-free stats aren’t too different. From StatSheet:
But here’s what’s sticking with me most of all: For all that talk of Ohio State’s dominance, I have yet to hear about how Craft’s class standing could be the thing that prevents them from winning a title. The last team to start a freshman point guard and win was Syracuse in ’03.
Now’s when we find out.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.
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