Throughout his high school career, Thad Matta heard just about every name in the book from opposing fans.
“With the name Cornjerkers, you can imagine some of the things I’ve heard in my time,” the former Hoopeston-East Lynn High School star said with a laugh. “I got some thick skin coming out of there, that’s for sure.”
But while the Ohio State basketball coach may have built up a certain immunity toward trash talk from opposing fans, he understands why Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart may not have as high of a tolerance. The Cowboys star made national news this weekend when he was suspended three games by the Big 12 for an altercation with a fan in the closing seconds of Oklahoma State’s loss to Texas Tech.
Smart alleges that Texas Tech self-described super fan Jeff Orr called him a racial slur, while Orr claims that he called the future first round pick a “piece of crap.” Both parties have since apologized for the incident and Orr has volunteered not to attend any Red Raider games for the remainder of the season.
From his viewpoint, Matta was watching the Big 12 battle after the Buckeyes’ win over Purdue and admitted to being amazed by how quickly the situation escalated. The 10th-year Ohio State head coach said that from what he’s gathered of Smart’s character, it must have taken a lot to get him so riled up.
“Everything I’ve heard about Marcus Smart is he’s a phenomenal kid,” Matta said. “I don’t know what was said. It had to be something pretty significant.”
Even after his time in Hoopeston, Matta has seen opposing fans be flat out vicious to he and his players. In past years, “Diebler sucks” chants often showered sharpshooting guard Jon Diebler, while even as recently as a week ago, the Iowa student section directed its ire toward Aaron Craft.
Now in his senior season, Craft -- like Matta -- has heard plenty of mean things said over the course of his career in Columbus. And while Craft said that he’s never even thought about putting his hands on a spectator like Smart did, he did admit that trash talk can amount to a certain level of frustration.
“It’s always tough in the heat of the battle with emotions running high, especially if things aren’t going well. All it kind of takes sometimes is one thing to make you snap,” Craft said. “I don’t think it goes on unless as a team we’re doing something right.”
It also doesn’t hurt that most times that Craft receives attention from opposing fans, he usually has the last laugh.
“They can yell all they want, but the best thing that we can do is find a way to have more points than they do at the end of the game and have the gym quiet,” Craft said. “Luckily we were able to do that the last two games and that really helps.”
While the Smart situation may have showed one of the uglier sides of college basketball, Craft is hopeful that Tuesday will present the other side of the coin.
With the attention that the Twitter account of his roommates (@CRAFTroomies) has garnered, Craft and his housemates have opted to term Tuesday’s game against Michigan “Taco Tuesday,” a reference to their popular appearance on the Big Ten Network’s The Journey. T-shirts commemorating the event will be sold throughout the arena and a taco stand will be set up selling three-packs of tacos for $5.
Proceeds from the t-shirt and taco sales will benefit LiFE Sports, an on-campus charity that aims to "enhance the quality of youth development, sport, and recreational programs through service and outreach, teaching and learning, and research,
thereby increasing positive developmental outcomes for youth.”
“We wanted our backing and the people supporting us to see that it’s not really a selfish thing that we’re trying to do,” Craft said. “It’s all about the kids.”
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