Head coach Thad Matta and his Ohio State men's basketball coaching staff are off to a quick start in their 2014 recruiting class with four commits, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any questions surrounding the process.
The Buckeyes have had a couple of lackluster recruiting efforts the past two years because of scholarship uncertainty, but they will be back among the nation’s elite come national signing day.
Read on to see five questions about Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting plans.
If there is a pressing need for Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting class at this point, it is landing another big man.
Dave Bell is considered a long-term project and both Amir Williams and Trey McDonald will be gone by 2015.
The Buckeyes are still dark horses for the services of Jahlil Okafor, but with each recruiting update, it seems like a longer and longer shot (hint: It’s not going to happen). That means Thad Matta will have to look elsewhere for a center/power forward.
Ohio State has shown interest in Myles Turner, Elbert Robinson, Goodluck Okonoboh and Payton Dastrup among others.
There are some concerns from the Buckeyes' standpoint in terms of landing one or more of these players. Turner is very high on going to Kansas and will be making an official visit there soon for Midnight Madness, while Matta joined the party a bit late with Okonoboh and Dastrup.
As for Robinson, the Buckeyes are one of his three finalists (with 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.
D’Angelo Russell is listed as a shooting guard on most recruiting services and has spent much of his high school career off the ball, but Ohio State could very well be using him as a point guard when he gets to campus.
Aaron Craft will be gone and Shannon Scott will be a senior when Russell arrives in Columbus, Ohio. There will certainly be a need at the floor general position and Buckeyes coach Thad Matta is hoping Russell can fill it effectively.
It shouldn’t be too much of an issue because Russell is an excellent ball-handler. His versatility, quickness and jump-shooting ability will all come into play at the collegiate level. He will likely play both the point guard and shooting guard spots during his career.
The commitment of Dave Bell to Ohio State’s 2014 class was somewhat surprising considering the talent level that Thad Matta is bringing in, but Bell’s mediocre status as a recruit is partially because he is a late-riser at the prep level.
That being said, he isn’t likely to step onto campus right away and become an All-American. He is considered a project who should develop into a formidable contributor, but it will take some time.
Given the lack of long-term depth at the center position on Ohio State’s roster right now, Matta would prefer if Bell’s development happens at a quicker pace. Amir Williams and Trey McDonald will be seniors when the 2014 class arrives and as of now, there isn’t another big man down the road besides Bell.
Assuming that there isn’t any unexpected roster attrition, Ohio State will have room to offer one more scholarship for its 2014 class in addition to the four commits it already received.
However, if LaQuinton Ross elects to depart for the NBA after his junior season in 2013-14, that number will increase to two. Ross is expected to step in for Deshaun Thomas as the Buckeyes’ go-to scorer this year. How successful he is at doing that will likely determine whether he leaves for the pros.
That means that one of the biggest questions about the 2014 class depends on how a current Ohio State player performs. Thad Matta will probably only use the one scholarship in case Ross does return and if Ross goes to the NBA, Matta can always roll that second one over to what is expected to be a solid 2015 class.
Versatile forwards who can play two or three positions effectively because of their length, ball-handling skills and athleticism are coveted in college basketball today and Ohio State already has two for the 2014 recruiting class.
The question now becomes can Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate play alongside each other. Both are similar heights and consider small forward their main spot, but the talent is in place to go small-ball with one at power forward or even go big with one at the shooting guard.
If each works on their shooting and passing games, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. When this class hits its stride, D’Angelo Russell could be feeding Bates-Diop and Tate for a number of easy opportunities throughout their respective careers.
If Thad Matta can land a big man, watch out.
Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.