Ohio State Basketball: Thad Matta's Biggest Recruiting Busts of All Time
There are few things that Thad Matta has done wrong in his career as Ohio State’s head coach.
He has led the Buckeyes to two Final Fours, multiple Big Ten championships, multiple Big Ten tournament titles and a handful of Sweet 16 appearances. He has also coached a National Player of the Year, first-round draft picks and plenty of All-Americans.
A major reason for Matta’s success in Columbus has been his ability to recruit.
According to Scout.com, he brought in the No. 8 ranked class in 2011, No. 3 ranked class in 2010, No. 2 ranked class in 2008, No. 7 ranked class in 2007 and No. 2 ranked class in 2006.
While the overall recruiting rankings are quite impressive, not all of Matta’s signees worked out as planned. Despite Matta's success, some of these prospects can only be referred to as busts.
Read on to see the biggest ones of Matta's tenure.
Recruiting rankings and stars courtesy of Scout.com.
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Jordan Sibert was supposed to be a critical piece of an uber-talented 2010 class that Thad Matta brought to Columbus.
That group included Aaron Craft, Jared Sullinger, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Deshaun Thomas. All four of those names should be fairly familiar to Buckeye fans.
However, Sibert was a 4-star prospect that was initially expected to have a bigger impact than Craft or Smith. Two seasons and one transfer later, it is clear that plan didn’t exactly work out that way.
Sibert ended up averaging 2.5 points, .7 assists, 1.2 rebounds and .4 steals per game. What’s more, he never once recorded a block in his entire Buckeye career.
Sibert transferred to Dayton this offseason to cap off his unceremonious two years at Ohio State. He is still a talented guard and will have two years of eligibility remaining as a Flyer, so he can still possibly turn his collegiate career around.
But he has to be considered a bust from a Buckeye standpoint.
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B.J. Mullens is arguably the best player on this list, and it is kind of difficult to call someone who started as a freshman and then got drafted a bust.
However, Mullens finds himself here because of what could have been.
He was a 7’ center and considered the top-ranked big man in the class of 2008. What’s more, Mullens was a native Ohioan who was going to bring some glory to his home state’s biggest program.
Unfortunately for the Buckeye faithful, Mullens only played one season in Columbus, and it wasn’t exactly program changing. He averaged a mere 8.8 points per game during that year, but that wasn’t even the most disappointing statistic.
Despite his 7’ frame, Mullens only grabbed 4.7 rebounds a game.
To put that in perspective, William Buford averaged five rebounds a game and Lenzelle Smith averaged 4.6 rebounds a game this past season for the Buckeyes from their guard/small forward positions.
Somehow, Mullens was still able to parlay his disappointing season into a NBA draft position following his freshman year.
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Thad Matta’s 2006 recruiting class was deemed the “Thad Five” and consisted of five players who were considered 4- or 5-star recruits, including Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr.
Daequan Cook was one of the 5-star prospects, and the Dayton native was considered the second-best shooting guard in the entire 2006 class.
Nevertheless, Cook struggled to make his mark on an Ohio State team that made it all the way to the national championship game behind its freshmen. He averaged 9.8 points, one assist and 4.3 rebounds (about the same as B.J. Mullens on the rebounding front, sadly enough) in fewer than 20 minutes per game.
But it was Cook’s surprising decision to declare for the NBA draft following that freshman season that lands him on this list. While I am not going to criticize someone for grabbing NBA dollars when they have a chance, Cook could have been a go-to guy for the Buckeyes the following season.
Oden and Conley both were Top Five picks in the draft, and Ohio State did not even make the tournament the next year.
Had Cook decided to stay another year or two, he could have made a name for himself in Columbus and moved up on some NBA draft boards.
photo courtesy of ohiostate.scout.com
Wait, who is Sylvester Mayes?
If you asked yourself that, then you know exactly why he is on this list.
Mayes was a junior-college transfer that was part of Ohio State’s 2005 recruiting class. He was considered a 4-star prospect and was hoping to make an impact from the shooting guard position at a big-time program.
However, Mayes only ended up averaging 4.2 points, 1.9 assists and one rebound per contest in his one season in Columbus.
What’s more, Mayes only shot a measly 36 percent from the field.
Mayes’ 2005-06 Buckeye team won the Big Ten championship however, so things weren’t all bad for Mayes’ Ohio State career. But Terence Dials, Je’Kel Foster and Ron Lewis may have had more to do with that title than Mayes.
Decision to Pass on Trey Burke
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It would be easy to read into the inclusion of this decision as an indictment of Shannon Scott.
After all, Thad Matta decided to pass on the recruitment of Trey Burke largely due to the fact that he landed Scott as a backup/backcourt mate to Aaron Craft.
While Burke certainly looks like the better option after one season, the verdict is still out on Scott. He was considered a better prospect than Burke coming out of high school, and he should see more playing time this year with the graduation of William Buford.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that Matta probably should have gone after Burke. I know, hindsight is 20/20, but imagine a backcourt of Craft and Burke terrorizing Big Ten opponents.
What’s more, if Burke was a Buckeye (which he probably would be had Matta pursued him since he was Jared Sullinger's high school teammate), Michigan would be much less of a threat in the conference standings.
Just for future reference, anytime a coaching move can help Ohio State and hurt the Wolverines, it would likely be well received in Columbus.