Young Ohio State basketball fans may take the program’s recent success for granted, but the Buckeyes went through some lean years before Thad Matta took over the helms. The primary way Matta has established such consistent success is by landing the pieces necessary on the recruiting trail.
His 2013 class isn’t high on quantity (there are only two members), but there is certainly some quality joining the fold in Columbus. Ohio-native and Mr. Basketball Marc Loving will attempt to fill the stretch-forward role vacated by Deshaun Thomas, and shooting guard Kameron Williams will join Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott in what should be an athletic backcourt.
So what will their respective stats look like in their freshman season?
Marc Loving: 7.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.9 BPG, 22.0 MPG
The second that Thomas declared his intentions to enter the NBA draft was the second that Loving clinched significantly more playing time in the 2013-14 season. The 6’8”, 200-pound forward fits the blueprint for a versatile forward who can play the 3 or 4-spots, much like Thomas did in Columbus.
He can score from the blocks, face up and drive around defenders or even shoot over outstretched arms from mid-range. If that sounds very similar to Thomas’ offensive arsenal to Buckeye fans it should.
Loving is no stranger to scoring as he won this year’s Ohio Mr. Basketball Award behind better than 21 points a night (as well as 8.4 rebounds). He clearly won’t average that type of scoring on a team that already features Craft, LaQuinton Ross, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Sam Thompson, but look for Loving to have a handful of breakout double-digit scoring nights, especially early.
He is also lengthy and mobile for his size, which will help a Buckeye squad that is short on established rebounders hit the glass. That length will allow Loving to block a handful of shots this season as well, but it is the rebounding that would prove more useful for an Ohio State team that loses its leader in that stat (Thomas).
While the natural assumption is that Loving will inherit Thomas’ forward role, look for Matta to insert him as the “big man” in the center-less lineup Ohio State experimented with this past season.
The key for Loving in terms of playing time—as is the case with almost every young Buckeye in Matta’s system—will be his defense. If Loving can rebound, get in the passing lanes and contest shots in the paint (which are all reasonable expectations), he will see around 22 minutes a night in the 3, 4 and even 5 spots in the lineup.
Kameron Williams: 8.5 PPG, 3.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.2 RBG, 17.0 MPG
Loving may turn out to be the better player in the long run, but Kameron Williams will score more points per night next year because that is precisely what Williams is being brought in to do.
Ohio State ranked 110th in the nation in points per game and 79th in the country in three-point percentage. Obviously pace of play factors into those numbers, but neither screams Final Four-caliber offense. In fact, it was the Buckeyes’ stagnant half-court attack that cost them a number of games in the early season.
Williams is a pure scorer who has already dominated against some of the country’s best prep players in that area. He led the Nike Elite Youth Basketball league (a spring/summer circuit consisting of the nation’s top traveling teams) with 22.2 points per game behind 53-percent field-goal shooting and a 48-percent clip from downtown.
Williams will score better than eight points a game next year because he will be the one (along with Ross) who camps out behind the arc waiting for Craft or Loving to dish it out after penetration or a post play. Williams also has the quickness to get to the rim, although size may be an issue when he gets inside.
Williams will see less minutes than Loving solely because of the makeup of Ohio State’s roster (Williams will be competing with Craft, Smith, Thompson, Shannon Scott and even Amedeo Della Valle for playing time), but he will find the basket in his opportunities. He will also use his quick hands and lateral speed to rack up better than a steal a night, which will endear him to Buckeye fans who love their defense.
These numbers may seem ambitious considering Matta’s hesitation to play a deep bench in the past, but Ohio State’s coach showed last season that he isn’t afraid to play a deep rotation. Look for Loving and Williams to make an immediate impact in 2013-14.