Craft Leaning on Sully During Draft Process

CHICAGO – Many have called Jared Sullinger a teammate. Few have been fortunate enough to have also called him a close friend and a mentor.

Aaron Craft, who has known Sullinger for nearly a decade, can use all of those terms to describe his relationship with Boston’s young star. The two met during their freshman year of high school and a lifelong friendship has blossomed ever since.

Aaron Craft, Jared Sullinger

Aaron Craft and Jared Sullinger were teammates for two seasons at Ohio State.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images Sport

The two chose to attend Ohio State University and play alongside each other under Thad Matta. They were a potent duo, helping the Buckeyes contend for national championships for two seasons before Sullinger declared for the 2012 NBA Draft.

Craft, meanwhile, remained at Ohio State, where he just completed a stellar four-year career. The point guard is now going through the pre-Draft steps that Sullinger went through two years ago. That experience is playing a big role in helping Craft stay even-keeled throughout the process.

“[Sullinger] just told me to enjoy the process,” Craft recently told Celtics.com. “There are so many things that are out of my control, too. So (he told me), ‘Go to it, enjoy it and keep playing the game that you love, and at the end of the summer things will work out how they’re supposed to.’”

Sullinger has a unique perspective in regard to that mindset. Just two years ago, his own basketball career seemed to be in question. Once considered to be a definite lottery pick, Sullinger dropped all the way to No. 21, where the Celtics picked him up.

That night was a humbling experience for Sullinger, but one that he wouldn’t change one bit. He has become a better person and a better player as a result. Things have worked out like they were supposed to.

Now Sullinger is attempting to instill a similar faith in his longtime friend. Craft is a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year who has been one of the top point guards in the nation over the past few seasons. Now he’s facing the potential of going undrafted on June 26.

Such a possibility would be devastating to most 23-year-olds who have dreamed of playing in the NBA. Craft, however, is handling that potential scneario just fine, thanks in large part to the mentorship of one of his best friends.

“It always helps being able to go to someone who’s been through it, especially someone that’s as close as Jared has been, and the success that he’s been able to have,” said Craft. “He’s always been a guy throughout the years, even before we got to this point, that I could bounce ideas off of.”

Craft also called Sullinger a “calming force” and a “brother.” Soon, though, their tight relationship will become a bit more competitive. Craft revealed that he and Sullinger are planning to work out together in Columbus, Ohio, as the point guard continues to prepare for the Draft and the big man readies himself for next season.

Craft was visibly excited about the opportunity to get back into the gym with his former teammate. He stated that the two have been able to push each other much more over the past few years as Sullinger’s game extended farther and farther away from the basket. Craft also let it be known that everything is taken up a few notches when Sullinger is in the building with him.

“I just think he brings a great energy to the gym,” Craft said. “You get in there and he’s a guy you love working out with. He’s always energetic; loves being there. Those are the types of guys you want to be in the gym with.”

Those are also the types of guys anyone would love to have as a teammate, a friend and a mentor. Fortunately for Craft, he has access to all of those things in Sullinger as he prepares for the most challenging stage of his basketball career.