- Last Updated: 8:52 AM, March 24, 2012
- Posted: 1:28 AM, March 24, 2012
BOSTON — Tonight, at almost the exact moment Aaron Craft, Ohio State’s starting point guard, tries to control the opening tip of the NCAA tournament East Region championship, his older brother, Brandon Craft, a U.S. Army Infantryman, will try to control his emotions as he and his unit fly across the Atlantic for their deployment in Afghanistan.
Yes, smack dab in the middle of America’s Tournament comes a story as American as apple pie and rusty basketball rims.
“Obviously I’m going to worry a little bit, but he’d be the first one to tell you, you shouldn’t worry,’’ Aaron said yesterday. “He’s been trained, and that’s the path he chose.
“He wants me to focus on basketball as much as possible and continue to enjoy what I’m going through,’’ he added. “He’ll just stay in my prayers, and that will be the end of it.’’
Really, it’s just the beginning.
Brandon chose the path to serve to assure that Aaron and their younger sister, Caitie, who will play basketball for Ohio State in the fall, can enjoy March Madness, campus mixers and spring days.
“I definitely appreciate that my brother is proud of what I’m doing,’’ Brandon told The Post yesterday in an exclusive telephone interview from the Fort Lewis army base in Washington where he is stationed.
“One of my big goals is to do something so my brother and sister will be as proud of me as I am of them. They are the two best people I ever met. They’re the two big reasons it’s easy to put on the uniform and do the job. They’re the two big reasons.’’
Brandon, 23, is the single biggest reason why Aaron, 20, is the best defensive guard in college basketball, a player so tenacious and relentless that teammates love him and opponents despise playing against him.
The brothers’ love for each other was matched only by the ferocity of their athletic competition. Punches were thrown. Jerseys were pulled. The art of the Crafts is to do whatever it takes to win.
“I was never the best offensive threat playing with older guys,’’ Aaron said. “The one thing I could do is go out there and frustrate those guys as much as possible, get in a couple fights here and there.’’
In the Buckeyes’ 81-66 Sweet 16 win over Cincinnati on Thursday, Craft — a 6-foot-2, 190-pound sophomore — had 11 points, six steals, five assists and four rebounds. Brandon got to watch that game on TV.
“No player is safe when Aaron is on you,’’ Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger said. “He puts the blue in blue collar.’’
Aaron knew this day would come. The day he arrived on the Ohio State campus was the day Brandon enlisted.
“It’s becoming a little more real and eye-opening,’’ Aaron said. “It just gives you perspective on some things. We really care and we fight for basketball games. But he’s fighting for something bigger, and it’s for all of us.’’
There might not be an NCAA tournament without the sacrifice and commitment of men and women like Brandon Craft, but Brandon doesn’t see it that way. He was asked what he admires most about Aaron.
“It’s a little unusual that the people you look up to, my brother and sister, are younger than me,’’ Brandon said. “Aaron has always been a guy willing to forego his own personal glory for others. It’s not something you see every day.’’
Not unless you’ve spent a lot of time with Brandon and Aaron Craft. The glory is in each other.Follow @NYPostsports