Buckeye Nation’s attention may be squarely focused on how it plans to pass the long three months before kickoff, but the basketball program received monumental news this week when 5-star prospect D’Angelo Russell joined Thad Matta’s 2014 recruiting class.
Corey Albertson of Rivals.com broke the news on Twitter:
BREAKING: '14 five-star guard D'Angelo Russell informs he that he just committed to Ohio State.— Corey Albertson (@Corey_Rivals513) June 7, 2013
The Louisville native selected Ohio State over hometown school Louisville, Michigan State and Memphis among others and gives Matta his fourth commitment in what promises to be a program-altering year of recruiting.
Not only did Matta land Russell, but he was also able to keep the talented guard away from the fellow Big Ten Spartans, who were reportedly Russell’s second choice.
So what exactly will Russell bring to Ohio State down the road?
The first thing he provides is a renewed chance for the Buckeyes to land the No. 1 class in the country when the 2014 rankings are officially tallied (arbitrary or not, external factors such as the “recruiting title” help land future prospects). Matta will be battling with the usual suspects, including North Carolina, Duke and Kentucky, but Ohio State is off to a great start and is not done.
Russell joins a group that already includes commitments from Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate and big man David Bell. Bates-Diop and Tate both possess the type of elite talent that Russell does, and all three will compete for immediate playing time in 2014.
In addition to improving Ohio State’s chances at the top class in the country, Russell gives Matta another recruiting tool in the battle to land the services of center Jahlil Okafor, who is considered the top player in the country for 2014 (Jared Sullinger is already reportedly trying to convince Okafor to don the Scarlet and Gray).
Russell recently stated in an interview that he plans on recruiting Okafor to join him in Columbus.
While these extracurricular aspects are nice, Russell’s true impact will come on the court. He is listed as the No. 1 shooting guard in the country by Scout.com for a reason, and Buckeye fans will find out why soon enough.
In terms of pure shooting, it doesn’t get much better than Russell in the class of 2014. He lives up to the shooting guard moniker perfectly with a smooth left-handed stroke and range that comfortably extends beyond the three-point line. Furthermore, he is capable of driving the lane with explosive athleticism, finishing at the rim and consistently hitting from mid-range.
Russell can play either guard position, although he is probably more suited for the shooting guard spot at the collegiate level. Still, he is an impressive distributor who will find open teammates when defenders crash on his shot.
Offensively, Russell possesses the entire package and has the potential to be a big-time scorer for the Buckeyes right away. By 2014, mainstays like Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. will have graduated, which means Matta could utilize Russell in the backcourt immediately.
Russell is also improving his defense and uses his length (he is listed as 6’4”) to bother opponents’ shots or get in the passing lane.
Will Ohio State eventually finish with the No. 1 class in 2014?
He would pair best with a premier big man in this class so he can make defenders pay for doubling down in the post with his jump shot, which is why the pursuit of Okafor is so interesting. These two, combined with forwards Bates-Diop and Tate, would form quite the core in Columbus.
Look for Matta’s 2014 class to be his best since the days of the “Thad Five” in 2006.
Follow Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.