Men's basketball: Big men are scarce in Buckeyes’ pipeline
Jae’Sean Tate of Pickerington Central has committed for the class of 2014
The elephant in the room for the Ohio State men’s basketball team, now and in the near future, is the “big” question.
For one, how good will the Buckeyes’ big men be next season, and the one after that?
Beyond that, who will they be?
While juniors Amir Williams and Trey McDonald put in their offseason work on campus this month, coach Thad Matta and his assistants will fan out across the country to evaluate high-school prospects in grassroots camps and tournaments.
They have 15 days to secure their future: today through Sunday, July 17-21 and 24-28.
“Obviously, that’s going to be a big position for us,” Matta said of the center spot where Williams and McDonald will share minutes next season. “But I like the progress both guys have made through the spring and thus far in the summer.”
Matta had the luxury last season of three players to rotate in the position. But Evan Ravenel graduated, and despite numerous offers, the Buckeyes were unable to land any inside players in either of the past two recruiting classes.
One option will be to play without a true center at times. The Buckeyes did that late last season with good results when pairing LaQuinton Ross and Deshaun Thomas up front. They could do the same with Ross and Sam Thompson, or possibly 6-foot-9 freshman Marc Loving, who has a wingspan of 7 feet, 11/2 inches.
“A lot of it is going to depend on, do we have the ability to fly around defensively?” Matta said.
Looking beyond this season, the Buckeyes have one more big man in the pipeline: 6-10 Dave Bell of Garfield Heights, Ohio. But he is a project who could redshirt as a freshman in 2014-15.
So, with the one remaining scholarship Matta plans to offer the 2014 class — Ohio State already has four commitments — he will target another big man.
Matta said it is “highly unlikely” that he will oversign by one player in 2014 in case a player leaves early. That means, then, that the Buckeyes are done pursuing highly rated point guard Tyus Jones of Apple Valley, Minn., despite the fact Jones and one of their top post targets, Jahlil Okafor of Chicago, plan to play together in college.
The commitment to Ohio State last month by 2014 combo guard D’Angelo Russell of Louisville, Ky., left no room for Jones. Instead, the Buckeyes will look for another point guard in the class of 2015, Matta said.
Already, more than a dozen players in the 2015 class have been offered scholarships by Matta, an unusually large number for him. But early offers are a growing trend among coaches who feel if they don’t, they won’t have a chance at a player.
With Matta aiming for five signees in 2014, and Ohio expected to have its strongest class in years in 2016, he will be challenged to balance what he brings in.
“Things change daily anymore, but I don’t think we would (sign) five-deep in ’15,” he said. “We’d probably be a little bit limited in ’16 if we did that.”