Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. Reflect on Returning Home During COVID-19

Adam Prescott

This week, fans around the country have been able to watch plenty of former college standouts play in The Basketball Tournament (TBT) on ESPN. It can be difficult to try and see them in action throughout the rest of the year, however, as almost all of them compete professionally in a variety of countries overseas.

That remains true for members of Carmen’s Crew, Ohio State’s alumni team, as nearly the entire roster has a career outside of the United States. Getting back to see one another this time around was a little more strenuous than past trips following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Former Buckeyes Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Aaron Craft, teammates together on the 2012 Final Four squad at OSU, both answered questions this past week on the topic during a TBT media session.

“It was scary for everyone,” said Smith, who was in Tel-Aviv (Israel) at the time. “It was an emergency and you had to drop everything to try and get home to your family. By the grace of God, I was able to return safely and stay free of the virus.”

Smith, a 6-5 shooting guard, began this past 2019-20 season in Greece before signing with Hapoel in Tel Aviv. He contributed five points and two rebounds for Carmen’s Crew on Wednesday.

Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Aaron Craft

Craft, a featured TBT participant this summer after announcing it would be his last outing as a professional, spent the past two years competing for Aquila Basket Trento in Italy.

“The biggest difference I’ve seen is the seriousness of which all the public took the virus, whether it was on their own or regulations and laws put in place by the government,” Craft explained. “I haven’t seen that a ton here in the United States. There are pockets that have taken it seriously and listened to the rules, but there are others who have not done that.”

Craft, his wife (Amber) and young son (Owen) were eventually able to leave the country after an extended, and very rigid, quarantine period.

“My wife got yelled at twice by random public people because she was out running by herself,” Craft added. “They both told her to go home. Cops also asked her twice how close she was to home. That’s how serious they were taking it.”

Carmen’s Crew unfortunately dropped a tough 76-68 contest to House of ‘Paign (Illinois alums) in the second round of TBT. Craft tallied seven rebounds, five assists and four points.

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