Survey says: Big Ten's toughest player

Toughness. It’s needed in any sport to be successful. And there are many definitions of toughness, which is displayed in various ways. Show me a successful team—and I’ll show you a tough team. Knowing that, I asked some writers who cover Big Ten hoops teams who they felt is the “toughest” player in the conference.

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Mark Snyder, Detroit Free Press:

Aaron Craft. Whether by design or accident, he takes more bumps than a pinball — at both ends.

Seth Gruen, Chicago Sun-Times:

Keith Appling. Smallest guy on the floor and not afraid to bang with the big boys. Allen Iverson-like mentality.

Joe Rexrode, Detroit Free Press:

Can I call it a tie between Keith Appling and Aaron Craft? I can’t pick one there. It is exhausting to watch them go at each other.

Scott Dochterman, Cedar Rapids Gazette:

Adreian Payne is not only physically imposing, but he adds to that with sheer determination in the post. He’s an underrated scorer but undoubtedly the toughest player on the Big Ten’s toughest team.

Dave Biddle,

Aaron Craft. He is the toughest player mentally, not only in the Big Ten, but in the entire country. And he’s also tough physically.

Pete DiPrimio, Fort Wayne News-Sentinel:

I call it a tie between IU’s Noah Vonleh and Purdue’s A.J. Hammons.

Robin Washut,

Tim Frazier. He was up there before his injury, but the way he handled the setback last year and hit the ground running this year has been great.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (2 Comments)
akble on 1/17/2014 @ 4:06pm EDT Said:

Craft was part of great supporting cast to two All Americans last year which allowed him to concentrate on D – this year his total game shows its glaring weaknesses. He can not take over a game when needed. In Ohio States last three games- all losses – he has been outplayed at the point by his opponents and his line shows 16 Assists with 15 Turnovers – hardly a good ratio and only 7 PPG with average at best shooting %. Add the fact his slapping and body checking has earned him nearly 4 fouls per game it is apparent that he is not even All Big Ten caliber when the light shines on him rather than 2 All American teammates like last year. Tough? very subjective term that I do not equate to just diving for a loose ball or playing hack away D.

Patrick on 2/6/2014 @ 9:58pm EDT Said:

^Love the Aaron Craft hate!!! Proving he’s doing something right! He leads his men, guards the other team’s best player for 40 minutes, almost never comes out of the game, and plays the best defense by a guard that the NCAA has ever seen. Craft is the epitome of tough! Sure he went through a rough patch in January, no one plays flawlessly every game. But proved he’s back on track with 17 points and SIX steals AT Iowa on Tuesday. He almost never fouls out or sits because of foul trouble, BTW. And it’s funny to me, and all other Craft fans, when average college basketball fans think they know more about the rules than professional officials, by claiming Aaron is “playing hack away D.” If he was actually hacking, the refs would call it, especially with these new hand-checking rules! He plays D with his feet, not hands. On track to become the B1G’s career steals leader and top 3 in assists. Plays 40 minutes night in and night out. Plays with more heart than any player on any team that I can remember. Often saves his best play for the last few minutes of games (7 points in the final 4 minutes at Wisc, while scoring 0 before). Only an extremely biased rival fan would have the audacity to say that Aaron is not tough!