Ohio State may be ranked No. 7 in the country with a 5-1 record right now, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping one eye on the future as well.
The Buckeyes didn’t bring in a notable 2012 recruiting class because of scholarship uncertainty, but Thad Matta is actively trying to remedy that with impressive 2013 and 2014 groups (that 2014 class should be particularly strong).
Matta currently has two major recruits under wraps for 2013—Kameron Williams and Marc Loving. While both prospects will be donning the scarlet and gray, they are very different players on the court.
Williams is a 6’2” shooting guard who hails from Baltimore, MD. If there is one thing that stands out in Williams’ scouting report it is his shooting and scoring prowess.
He is deadly from behind the three-point line, but also shoots a solid percentage from inside the arc. What’s more, he is consistent from the free-throw line, which is something that will prove very critical on a Buckeye team that hasn’t been automatic when fouled.
Anyone who has watched Ohio State early in the season recognizes how badly it needs another scorer, especially in the backcourt. Poor shooting performances have hampered the Buckeye guards in a number of their games, including the Duke loss.
Ohio State ranked 241st in the nation last season in three-point percentage, so this isn’t exactly a new trend.
Williams also adds an intriguing option on the defensive side. He is small, shifty and quick, which will allow Matta to utilize a full-court press that could include Williams, Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott.
That kind of speed could give slow, grind-it-out Big Ten teams fits, especially if Matta mixes in other types of defensive looks.
While Williams has the potential to become an elite scorer in the backcourt, or at least play the role of long-range marksman, Marc Loving offers Matta a bit more versatility. Loving stands at 6’7” and has the athleticism and length to score from the inside and outside.
The absolute best case scenario for Loving would be to follow Deshaun Thomas’ footsteps. Like Thomas, his size and ball-handling/shooting skills create nightmare matchups for opposing defenses.
Loving can back down and shoot over smaller guards or drive around bigger forwards. He is also a solid rebounder, although adding a bit of weight before entering the grueling Big Ten wouldn’t hurt him in that category.
In order to gauge which recruit will have a bigger impact, especially right away, it makes sense to forecast what the team will look like when they arrive in Columbus.
Let’s assume Thomas will enter the NBA draft, although that is certainly not a guarantee. Furthermore, Evan Ravenel will have graduated, but the rest of the current roster should be intact.
That means the biggest hole on the 2013 Ohio State basketball team will be big-man depth. In fact, it will basically be Amir Williams or bust in that category unless Matta can land a surprise late addition to his recruiting class before signing day.
Thanks to this reality, Loving will in all likelihood have the larger immediate impact for the Buckeyes. Matta will need his rebounding ability and length to replace that of Thomas, who is the same height and currently leads the team in rebounds.
If Ohio State was in another conference I might be singing a different tune, but depth in the forward and center positions is so critical in the Big Ten. There isn’t a more physical league in the country, and Matta will need all the bodies he can.
That’s not to say Williams couldn’t develop into a terrific player right away, particularly with Aaron Craft penetrating and opening up looks from behind the arc. It just means there will be more of an immediate opportunity and need for someone with Loving’s skill set, especially since LaQuinton Ross might be the de facto three-point shooter when Williams arrives.
Of course, that could all change if Thomas decides to return and there is already a 6’7” forward with versatility to play on the inside and outside.