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Utah Jazz: Ex-Buckeye Aaron Craft brings grit to Jazz workout

Published June 3, 2014 9:58 am

The Ohio State product is known for his defensive prowess.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

For two years, they were at the center of one of college basketball's biggest rivalries.

Michigan's Trey Burke was the glitz, an explosive point guard who filled up the stat sheet. Ohio State's Aaron Craft was the grit, one of the country's best lockdown defenders.

In five head-to-head matchups, Craft and the Buckeyes won three.

He wouldn't mind giving Burke another shot.

"It would be interesting," Craft, who worked out Monday for the Utah Jazz, said of the possibility of teaming up with Burke in Utah. "I think practice would be a lot of fun."

Craft is projected as a fringe second-round pick in the June draft

But his defensive prowess could be his ticket to the NBA.

Twice in his four years at Ohio State, Craft was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He finished his career with 337 steals, the most in school history.

And Jazz Vice President of Player Personnel Walt Perrin believes Craft will be able to defend bigger, faster point guards at the next level.

"He has pretty quick feet and he has really quick hands," Perrin said, "and that's not going to change, not until he turns 50."

For a team that ranked 30th defensively last season, that's a need.

"I hope I could help out a lot," Craft said. "At the same time, you can't just bring one guy in and expect everything to change. Hopefully I could come in and help out, pick some other guys up and see where it went."

The knock against Craft remains his shooting. But it's something he's addressing since leaving school.

"It's amazing how much work and time you can put in when you're out of school and you have more time on your hands," Craft said. "Obviously I'm not where I need to be but I feel really comfortable with the improvement that I've made since the season's been out. I've been shooting a lot and I'm happy with the progress. Just got to continue to do it."

On Monday, Craft surprised Jazz officials with his jumper.

"He shot it better than I thought he would," Perrin said. "I had to remind him a couple times he had his foot on the line. I told him that's the worst shot in NBA basketball. … He made it better than I thought he would. So he has been working on his jump shot, but he still has a ways to go."

Perrin has certainly seen plenty of the Ohio State senior, watching closely as he battled with Burke during two seasons in the Big 10.

"They both have played well against each other, stepped up their game because of who they were," Perrin said. "So that was fun to watch."

Craft wouldn't mind giving Jazz officials some more to watch.

"We had some big battles," Craft said of Burke. "Obviously he's a great kid. He's a great player. Utah's very lucky to have him. I would love to join him."

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz —

Jazz auditions

The Utah Jazz worked out six players Monday:

Cameron Bairstow • forward, New Mexico

Billy Baron • guard, Canisius

James Bell • guard, Villanova

Aaron Craft • guard, Ohio State

LaQuinton Ross • forward, Ohio State

Roscoe Smith • forward, UNLV Gentry joins two others Jazz have called back in

The race to be the head coach of the Utah Jazz appears to be coming down to three people.

The Tribune reported Saturday that Adrian Griffin will interview with the Jazz for a second time this week. On Monday night, ESPN reported that Alvin Gentry will interview with the team Tuesday.

Gentry is the associate head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. He is a past head coach of the Phoenix Suns. Quin Snyder — an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks — is also in the mix to be the man who replaces Ty Corbin.

Tony Jones