Ohio State Basketball: 5 Storylines to Monitor During Buckeyes' Offseason
The college basketball offseason makes Bo Ryan’s offense look fast. It is approximately seven months of a hoop-less void that tests the patience of the most ardent fans across the country.
Those basketball supporters in Buckeye Nation are no different. Yes, hearing news of Urban Meyer hitting the recruiting trail for the Ohio State football team helps pass the time a bit, but seven months is seven months.
We’re here to help fill the emptiness with some offseason storylines to keep an eye on as the summer trickles by. Read on to see five things to watch before the ball finally tips for the Buckeyes in late October/early November.
Amir Williams’ Development
It is not much of an overstatement to say that the development of Amir Williams may be the difference between a potential Big Ten championship and a middle-of-the-road type of season for the Ohio State basketball team in 2013-14.
The pieces around the perimeter are in place among Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, LaQuinton Ross and the incoming freshmen (albeit Marc Loving will certainly play down low more often than not). What the Buckeyes need is their 7-foot center that arrived on campus with considerable hype to finally fulfill his potential.
In today’s era of one-and-done college basketball, many players don’t even see their junior seasons, but the ones that do often make great strides in the summer after their sophomore years. Williams must dedicate himself to doing just that from now until October.
He doesn’t have to be Jared Sullinger or Greg Oden, but something comparable to Dallas Lauderdale, who was a shot-blocking and rebounding aficionado despite his offensive limitations, would be more than Thad Matta could hope for.
The 2014 Recruiting Push
Thad Matta’s 2012 recruiting class was lackluster at best thanks to scholarship uncertainty, and his 2013 group included only two players (although each should have an impact this year). Buckeye fans shouldn’t panic though and assume the days of seeing Ohio State ranked among the top 10 classes are in the past. The 2014 group should be special.
Matta already has the versatile and explosive Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate under wraps, each of whom has the potential to develop into a collegiate superstar. Throw in big man Dave Bell, who will give Ohio State much-needed size down low, and the 2014 class is already shaping up to be special.
Matta is not satisfied with that three-man group though, especially considering the program-altering year he is shooting for (it has been rumored in the past that he would like up to six recruits).
There have been a variety of names linked to the Buckeyes, but some of the more prominent ones include Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, L.J. Peak and Leron Black. Just the fact that Ohio State has been in on some of the country’s elite players should have fans excited.
The 2014 recruiting class needs to rank among the nation’s best for the Buckeyes to take the next step forward. Expect Matta to make sure it does.
Assistant Coaching Carousel
The college basketball offseason is filled with rumors regarding player transfers, coaching changes and how Andrew Wiggins’ decision to eat breakfast at Bob Evans will impact his college choice. Thanks to the Buckeyes’ recent success, the Ohio State coaching staff is not immune to these rumors.
At various points throughout the early offseason already, assistant coaches Chris Jent, Greg Paulus and Dave Dickerson have all been connected to various openings throughout the country. Jeff Boals is also a name that often pops up when there is a new coaching vacancy.
One would have to think Jent would be the biggest prize, considering his pedigree and history with everyone from the Buckeyes to LeBron James, and he was rumored as a potential replacement at Rutgers for some time.
Dickerson was linked to the opening at Florida Gulf Coast recently, and Paulus was strongly suspected to be joining Chris Collins’ staff at Northwestern, but that appears to no longer be the case.
Part of the price that successful programs must pay is the departure of up-and-coming assistant coaches, so even though these rumors eventually didn’t have legs, it is always worth keeping up with the latest developments around the halls of the Schottenstein Center.
It has been a couple of years since a freshman played a significant role on an Ohio State basketball team, but that is likely to change in 2013-14 as long as Kameron Williams and Marc Loving have a productive offseason.
Given the departures of Deshaun Thomas and Evan Ravenel, along with the question mark that is Amir Williams, Thad Matta is going to need Loving to contribute right away. Loving is lengthy enough to help pick up some of the rebounding slack and won Ohio’s Mr. Basketball on the back of his scoring prowess.
It is critical for Loving to add some strength to his frame during the summer. The Big Ten is the country’s most physical league, and he will be asked to bang around in the post at some point this year.
Kameron Williams will be counted on to provide much-needed outside shooting for an offense that became stagnant at times in the half court. As long as he takes the summer to hone his shot and maintain his quickness (which will allow him to join Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott in a lethal full-court press), Williams will see the floor plenty come winter.
As previously mentioned, Kameron Williams will play an integral role in improving Ohio State’s three-point shooting next season, but it is even more important that those players who will see more minutes contribute in that category as well.
The Buckeyes struggled in the half-court offense too often last year, especially when Deshaun Thomas wasn’t scoring. The fact that only Sam Thompson shot better than 39 percent from behind the arc certainly didn’t help those lackluster efforts.
Williams, Thompson, LaQuinton Ross, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Shannon Scott and especially Aaron Craft need to work on their jump shots all offseason. Thomas will no longer be around and Amir Williams is far from automatic down low, so more effective long-range shooting will be necessary if Ohio State hopes to contend for another Final Four.
For Craft, an improved three-point shot is one of the few things standing in his way from becoming All-American quality as a senior. Everyone knows about his defense, and his ability to slash the lane and get to the basket is underrated, but he needs to develop a better outside shot. Too often teams like Wisconsin and Wichita State backed off him and took away much of his offensive impact.
Thomas’ production will be difficult to replace, but one place to start trying this offseason is behind the three-point arc.