Ohio State’s 2014 basketball recruiting class is going to be special.
In fact, the best-case 2014 recruiting scenario for 95 percent of the schools across the country would be nowhere near what Thad Matta already has in tow, and National Signing Day is still light years away by recruiting standards.
The Buckeyes have four commits heading to Columbus as of now, and three of them are expected to contribute right away. Per Scout.com, D’Angelo Russell and Keita Bates-Diop are 5-star prospects, while Jae’sean Tate is a 4-star and Dave Bell is a 3-star.
Ohio State was recently ranked as the No. 2 class for 2014 by 247sports.com behind only North Carolina.
While the focus is on 2014 for the time being (in both the recruiting world and this article), it is worth noting that Matta also has verbal pledges from 5-star prospect Mickey Mitchell and 3-star point guard A.J. Harris in the 2015 class (per Scout). After a couple of lackluster classes by Ohio State standards (primarily because of scholarship numbers), it is safe to say Matta has his recruiting touch back.
Perhaps the most welcoming news for Buckeye Nation regarding the recruiting momentum is that Matta is not done with his 2014 group yet. There is still a best-case scenario out there that includes more than just the four players he already has in his back pocket.
In order to talk about a best-case situation, we have to understand the scholarship confines that Matta is currently working within. Eleven Warriors does an excellent job of breaking this down, and as things stand with the current commits and underclassmen (only Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. are seniors on this year’s team), Matta has one more scholarship to hand out for 2014.
That is assuming LaQuinton Ross stays in Columbus, but if he has the breakout season many are expecting in 2013-14, he could be gracing the NBA summer camps this time next year.
That puts Ohio State in a weird scenario where the best case for 2014 recruiting would mean its most talented scorer leaving the program. Clearly, that is not what’s ideal for the team, but in the vacuum that is this hypothetical best case for recruiting, that would give Matta two additional scholarships to distribute.
Based on this information and what the roster will look like in the next couple of seasons, Matta needs another big man in his 2014 class. Bell has a chance to be a solid player, but he is going to need time to develop, and both Amir Williams and Trey McDonald will be seniors in 2014-15.
That means any best-case scenario for 2014 recruiting absolutely requires another post presence for depth and productivity purposes (it’s not as if the current big men are tearing it up).
The absolute (and incredibly unrealistic, at this point) best-case scenario for the 2014 class would see Ross leave for the NBA and Matta use the two scholarships on center Jahlil Okafor and point guard Tyus Jones (the No. 1 and 4 prospects respectively per Scout.com). Okafor and Jones continue to insist they will play together at the next level, and many feel Duke is the destination for the tantalizing tandem.
Landing the Okafor and Jones combination would be Matta’s biggest coup since the “Thad Five” that featured the center and point guard pair of Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. Grouping Okafor and Jones with the current Ohio State 2014 commits would immediately put the Buckeyes on the short list for national title contenders.
Both still have the Scarlet and Gray listed as schools of interest on Scout, so don’t give up hope just yet. But this would be an upset if Coach K wasn’t leading these two next season.
So what is a more realistic best-case scenario?
That would probably be landing a premier big man to round out the class and then bankrolling the additional scholarship (if Ross goes pro) to what should be an impressive 2015 group. The Buckeyes have shown interest in Myles Turner (No. 2 overall on Scout), Elbert Robinson, Goodluck Okonoboh and Payton Dastrup among others.
There are some factors working against Ohio State with a few of these post players. Turner is very high on Kansas and will be making an official visit there soon, while Matta joined the party a bit late with Okonoboh and Dastrup.
As for Robinson, the Buckeyes are one of three finalists alongside Georgetown and Louisville. That being said, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Matta saw the writing on the wall for a few of the other centers (most notably Okafor) and started pursuing Robinson with even more vigor.
So a more realistic best-case scenario would be Ohio State rounding out its 2014 class with a commitment from Robinson. That would likely lock up top-five status in the recruiting rankings come National Signing Day and position the Scarlet and Gray to compete for Big Ten championships and more for the foreseeable future.
Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.
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