It has been an up-and-down season for the Ohio State Buckeyes' basketball team, but no matter how this year ends up, there is hope on the horizon on the recruiting front.
Thad Matta’s greatest strength during his tenure in Columbus has always been his ability to convince some of the best high school prospects in the country to take their talents to Ohio State. He plucked Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Deshaun Thomas from Indiana, got Evan Turner from Chicago and convinced Jared Sullinger to stay in state.
Matta’s 2013 class won’t make national headlines like those at Kentucky or Duke, but it will help lay the foundation for a monster 2014 group. Read on to see the strengths and weaknesses of Ohio State’s 2013 class.
Thad Matta’s 2012 class only had one recruit, and that was the lightly-regarded Amedeo Della Valle. His 2013 group will only have one more than that.
Kameron Williams and Marc Loving, both 4-star prospects according to Scout.com, will be joining the fold at Ohio State next season. Williams is considered a shooting guard, and Loving is a power forward.
At first glance, the fact that there are only two players in this class is somewhat concerning, especially considering the notion that the sole member of the 2012 class will probably never be a major contributor. That means two consecutive recruiting cycles where there is very little depth for the Buckeyes.
However, there is a silver lining. With the relatively light 2012 and 2013 classes, there will be plenty of scholarships available for a 2014 group that should be special.
This season’s Ohio State team has struggled with half-court offense because Thomas is the only consistently reliable scorer and there aren’t any lethal three-point shooters a la a Jon Diebler to stretch the defense out.
If Williams lives up to expectations, those shooting struggles will quickly be a thing of the past.
Williams was the top scorer (22.2 points per game) in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, which is a spring and summer circuit that includes the nation’s top traveling teams. He hit 53 percent of his field-goal attempts, 48 percent of his three-point shots and 85 percent of his free throws.
He is most renowned for his outside shooting and scoring prowess by all the major recruiting services and will prevent the defense from collapsing around Thomas next year (if he is still around) by camping out on the perimeter.
Loving will also help out in the scoring department because he is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He stands at 6’7” and has the ability to hit from the outside or the inside in a similar fashion to Thomas.
The Buckeyes may be known for their defense, but next year’s freshmen will score some points.
If you are a Buckeye fan who has grown frustrated with the interior play of this season’s team, the incoming freshmen in 2013 will not do anything to ease your mind.
Williams is an excellent perimeter scorer and shooter, but he is very slight in size. Scout.com lists his as 6’2” and a mere 165 pounds. It’s difficult to imagine Williams banging bodies down low with some of the bigger and more physical guards and forwards in the Big Ten.
Loving provides a bit more size than Williams in the height department. Scout lists him at 6’7” but only 185 pounds, which means he could be even slighter in frame than Williams considering the height difference.
Loving has the offensive ability to score from down low or outside, but being a forward in the Big Ten that is less than 200 pounds is no easy task. It would serve him well to add some weight to his frame before beginning his collegiate career.
Loving’s biggest strength is his versatility. Given his size and ability to put the ball in the basket from just about anywhere inside the three-point line, he can potentially slide into either forward spot.
Yes, he would struggle defending some of the bigger power forwards in the Big Ten, but they would struggle do defend him as well. Furthermore, if he was playing small forward, he could post up smaller defenders in a fashion similar to what Thomas did down the stretch against Northwestern.
Williams may not be as versatile as Loving, but he can fill in during spot duty for Aaron Craft or Shannon Scott at the point and is more than comfortable spotting up from the shooting guard position.
Williams and Loving both have the chance to be immediate contributors for Ohio State. However, neither addresses what will probably be the Buckeyes’ biggest need heading into the 2013-14 season—the center position.
Matta already has players that fit Loving’s mold (Thomas and/or LaQuinton Ross both come to mind, although Thomas may be gone after this year) and guards that will play the majority of the minutes next season (Craft, Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr.).
What he needs is a big man because Evan Ravenel graduates this year and Amir Williams is still somewhat of a question mark and won’t be playing 40 minutes a night next season even if he does finally live up to his extensive potential.
The good news for Buckeye supporters is that Matta has a center coming in as part of the 2014 class, but that’s not going to help the team much next year.
The Craft and Scott combination that Matta has experimented with this season has given Ohio State a speed advantage against almost any team in the Big Ten. However, that lineup often has trouble scoring.
If Williams is inserted into that combination (either in place of Scott or Craft or even together for a few minutes of small ball), the speed will still be there but with better shooting. Williams will assist in the full-court press and on fast breaks and can serve as a secondary scoring option behind Thomas (if he’s still around) when the game slows.
Loving is also fairly quick for his size and will have a speed and footwork advantage over the majority of power forwards that he would potentially match up against. He could fill the wing on breaks or drive around slower defenders rather easily.
The speed that the Williams-Loving combination provides will give Matta with some intriguing options when it comes to his substitutions and rotation patterns next season.
While this article is about Ohio State’s enticing but shallow 2013 recruiting class, keep in mind that it is simply laying the foundation for what should be one of Matta’s best classes as the Buckeyes’ head man.
247Sports.com recently listed Ohio State as the No. 1 group in the country in its way-too-early 2014 class rankings, and that was before Matta received a critical commitment from center David Bell. Bell is listed at 6’10” and could shoot up the recruiting rankings as he is still growing and just starting to tap into his potential.
Bell will be joined by 4-star wing player Jae’Sean Tate and the versatile 5-star Keita Bates-Diop at the bare minimum. Matta is also very much alive for a number of the remaining top-ranked recruits in the nation and will undoubtedly land some more prospects before wrapping the 2014 class up.
Although Craft and Thomas will be gone by the 2014-15 season, Ohio State’s future is still considerably bright.