Anyone hoping that former Ohio State guard Aaron Craft cast aside his white coat for another run with Carmen’s Crew in next summer’s version of The Basketball Tournament will surely be disappointed, as both he and guard Jon Diebler noted Tuesday night’s upset loss to The Money Team would be the final game of their respective careers.
“Even if I think physically and mentally that I can play again, I don’t think I’ll have the time next year,” Craft said during his postgame interview. “It was a great run. TBT gave us a lot of great times together, so we’ll see if I can come back and be an advisor of some sort, maybe.”
Craft, who just wrapped up his first year of medical school, didn’t even anticipate playing in this year’s tournament but ultimately decided to give it one last shot at the $1 million prize alongside Diebler and several other former teammates including William Buford, David Lighty, Evan Ravenel, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr. – and he’s glad he did.
“I don’t feel sad or angry,” Craft said of the loss. “They were gracious enough to let me play again. They definitely didn’t have to, but they let me come back and hang out, so I’m just grateful. I had a great couple weeks. It was great practicing, playing games again. A couple times out there, it felt like old times, so it gave me a nice little boost heading into school again.”
Diebler, who has spent the last nine years playing professionally overseas, noted he’s been contemplating retirement for the last few months and appeared somewhat emotional in the postgame presser. Still, he’s thankful he got to play a few more games in front of Ohio State fans before hanging up his jersey.
“This is it for me. I am done playing basketball,” Diebler said. “I’m at a point in my life and my career when it’s time to be done. I’ve had a fortunate career. I’ve played for nine years, stayed healthy for the most part.
“This is fun. I love these guys. It’s fun to get in front of our fans. I think that’s what hurts the most is the crowd really brought it tonight. It’s good times.”
Of course, fans will no longer have the opportunity to see Craft dive for a loose ball on the floor or Diebler drain a clutch three-pointer, but not much will change for the former Buckeyes off the court. In fact, they’ll probably be hanging out and reminiscing about the past as early as this coming weekend.
“Honestly, it’s beyond basketball, beyond winning games,” Diebler said. “We’re just a big family. We hang out together all of the time. A lot of us have kids now and our kids hang out together. It’s cool.
“Obviously everybody wants to win, everyone would like to win some money. But for us, it’s about having the chance to put the same uniform on again, especially to represent our university and our basketball program. We have some amazing fans, for them to come out – especially for a 9 o’clock game – like that, it’s awesome.”
All that said, Craft and Diebler are hopeful that head coach/general manager Jared Sullinger allows them to be involved with the team moving forward. The plan is to fill their roster spots with younger Buckeyes and make a run at another TBT championship, which Carmen's Crew won in 2019.
“Our goal was really to keep it going,” Diebler said. “This wasn’t just a five-year thing to when we’re all old and retired that there’s no more Carmen’s Crew in the TBT. We want to keep it going."
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